How to keep your pets safe and happy during the coronavirus pandemic
Dogs and cats have quarantine-related needs, too
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
News surfaced that the dog of a coronavirus patient in China tested “weak positive” and in the same internet instant, photos of dogs wearing medical face masks popped up all over the web.
While maintaining the health of yourself and the people around you is at the forefront of the world’s focus during the coronavirus (a.k.a., COVID-19) pandemic, these headlines and memes have brought up an important question: What about your pets?
Your pets are at a lower risk for coronavirus
The CDC says there's "no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19" and that the risk of animals spreading coronavirus to humans is thought to be low. Nevertheless, a tiger in a New York City zoo tested positive for coronavirus and the CDC says it is "aware of a small number of pets, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19."
With further information needed to understand how animals play a role in the spread of the novel virus, the CDC recommends not letting pets interact with people or animals outside of your home. And just as you would with other people, limit contact with your pet if you believe you are sick. Despite these newer findings that some animals may have the COVID-19-causing virus, using medical masks, even for entertaining photo ops, is still a wasteful and potentially dangerous practice, in light of shortages of these essential supplies at hospitals that really need them.)
You should still take precautions
One still-uncertain factor surrounding pets spreading the virus is whether or not it can live on their fur in the same way that the virus could live on hard surfaces for up to three days (and potentially on soft materials like cardboard boxes or laundry for 24 hours). Because we still have a lot to learn about this novel illness, erring on the side of caution is never a bad idea. There are healthy habits that the CDC recommends upholding in everyday life with a pet, including washing your hands after handling them, to ensure the health of you and your pet, particularly as the coronavirus escalates.
As previously mentioned, if you become sick (with confirmed coronavirus or otherwise), the CDC recommends restricting your contact with your pets. This doesn't mean an ill person can’t take a dog for a walk or personally put down the cat’s food bowl, but they should limit petting, snuggling, or kissing (basically, maintain a “social distance”), just in case.
Make sure you have a good stock of food and treats
Keeping your pets eating well and on the same diet is a recommendation for maintaining their good health in general. Grocery stores and online retailers are rapidly selling out of household essentials like toilet paper, and while we do not encourage anyone to over-buy, it’s smart to check on your pet food supply to ensure you have at least a couple of weeks’ worth, just in case. Chewy is still shipping and has stock of hundreds of favorite brands.
Keep your pets entertained—so they don’t bother you
Whether you’re trying to work from home (or you’re feeling sick), there are plenty of options for keeping needy pets busy and out of your personal space (not that we blame them—suddenly, you’re invading theirs!). Luckily, unlike humans who crave electronics, games, and crafts to stay entertained at home, most pets are more easily occupied.
Got a friendly feline who loves playing in boxes? Let them have at your empty Amazon packages. Another quick cat distractor: a DIY food puzzle, made by dropping a cat treat into a small juice cup, empty candle votive, or other nonbreakable vessel that’s too deep or awkward for their face to fit, and let them figure out how to fish out the food with a paw.
Some store-bought cat toys our editors like for keeping cats from trying to nap on your laptop keyboard: the Catit Senses 2.0 Digger, which has multiple upright tubes you can fill with treats to occupy and reward your kitty and the SmartyKat Catnip Caves, which look like ordinary brown paper bags for your cat to rustle with but they’re infused with catnip for a tantalizing smell (you can always try regular brown paper bags if you like). Also try chewy (read: long-lasting) treats like Petstages Fresh Breath Mint Stick Cat Toy, which is filled with sweet-smelling mint to freshen your cat’s breath as he or she chews it. The netting around the toy also removes soft tartar to keep your kitty’s teeth as healthy as possible. Another idea: Make any old cat toy new and exciting by spritzing it with a catnip spray, like the Kong Naturals.
- Get the Catit Senses 2.0 Cat Digger Slow Feeder on Chewy for $14.99
- Get the SmartyKat Catnip Caves on Chewy for $2.88
- Get the Petstages Fresh Breath Mint Stick Cat Toy on Chewy for $2.65
- Get the Kong Naturals Catnip Spray on Chewy for $5.19
For bored and affection-starved pups, consider a DIY scavenger hunt: Hide treats around the room, house, or (fenced) yard and let ‘em hunt. In a pinch, you can also put PB into the bottom of a cup (that you don’t mind getting chewed at), or just give the dog the remnants of an empty peanut butter jar. Or fill a long-forgotten hollowed-out dog bone with peanut butter and freeze it for a makeshift Kong toy.
Actually buying a Kong for your dog may be a worthwhile investment, as well as considering dog-approved favorites, like the Tuffy's Ocean Creatures Larry Lobster Dog Toy, which has two squeakers and uses layers of fabric to make a durable chewing toy and the Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle Dog Toy, which is great for solo play because your dog can fish the squirrels out of the tree trunk—though you’ll have to put them back in.
For a long-lasting chew treat, go with the Himilayan Dog Chew, which tastes like cheese and is made with yak and cow milk, salt, and lime juice. Your dog will only be able to scrape off a little bit at a time, providing hours of enjoyment.
- Get the Tuffy’s Ocean Creatures Larry Lobster Dog Toy on Chewy for $15.88
- Get the Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle Dog Toy on Chewy starting at $10.39
- Get the Himilayan Dog Chew on Chewy starting at $4.15
Entertain both your pets and yourself
When you’re looking to fill your (no doubt more abundant) idle time at home—and assuming you’re not sick—take advantage of some quality playtime with your little shadow. (And, seriously, you cannot underestimate the power of a furry friend’s antics for a much-needed moment of levity.)
If you could use a few extra things to occupy your pet’s time, don’t worry, we’ve got ideas for you. String up an old toy, a feather, or a ball of foil to a yard stick and go “cat fishing”—the same effect as the GoCat Da Bird Pull Apart Rod, a popular cat toy that gets your cat moving with a feathery “bird” on a stick controlled by you.
Don’t forget how easily cats can be amused with a laser pointer, like the Ethical Pet Laser Exerciser—there are also some apps that make your phone into a makeshift pointer.
- Get the Ethical Pet Laser Exerciser on Chewy for $2.99
- Get the GoCat Da Bird Pull Apart Rod on Amazon for $8.95
Social distancing allows for going outside and taking walks, so long as you maintain the CDC-recommended six feet of distance from others (and you keep your pup from bounding up to anyone you may encounter). The exercise is great for your pet and will likely boost your mood, too.
With your newfound time at home, you can also strike up a game of fetch any time, even on your lunch breaks. Find a ball, or if you’re willing to part with them, roll a pair of socks and get playing! Another fun (and topical) fetch toy: Empty rolls of toilet paper!
If you have a dog who enjoys a spirited game of tug-of-war (and, really, what dog doesn’t?), an old washcloth, hand towel, or bath towel—depending on the pup’s side—is a great option in lieu of a braided rope dog toy (though you could buy one of those, too).
You can also snag toys like the Chuckit Mini Ball Launcher, which helps you, the owner, throw the ball farther and higher for a high-energy pup who needs to get some sprints out. This way, you don’t get worn out too quickly yourself.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.