CDC Expands on Social Distancing Guidelines to Include Pets After Some Tested Positive for Coronavirus

The federal agency recommends that people "treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection"

Cat and dog
Photo: Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its social distancing guidelines to include household pets amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The federal agency recommends that people "treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection" by limiting their interaction with humans and animals outside of their household.

Pet owners are urged to keep cats indoors when possible and to walk dogs on a leash while maintaining at least six feet apart from other people or animals.

The CDC also advises pet owners to refrain from visiting dog parks and other public places where a large number humans and animals gather.

In addition, the agency say people who are suspected to have the novel coronavirus or have tested positive for COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets and other animals — including "petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding" — when at all possible.

Those who are sick should wear a cloth face covering and wash their hands before and after interacting with their pets, according to CDC. The agency does not recommend that people sick with COVID-19 take their pets to the veterinary clinic themselves.

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The new recommendations come after several animals in the United States tested positive for COVID-19.

The first reported case in the U.S. of an animal testing positive for the virus was a tiger with a respiratory illness at New York City's Bronx Zoo earlier in April. Since then, four more tigers and three lions at the same zoo tested positive for COVID-19.

Last week, two cats in New York became the first pets in the U.S. to contract the virus. The CDC and the United States Department of Agriculture announced in a joint statement that both felines are expected to make a full recovery.

Recently, a dog in North Carolina tested positive for the virus.

"CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats, to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Only a few of the animals reported to be positive showed signs of illness," the agency's new guidelines read.

The agency also said on its website that they "are still learning about this virus, but we know that it originally came from an animal source and is primarily spreading from person-to-person, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations."

"In the United States, there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19," the CDC said.

As of Tuesday, there have been at least 1,013,067 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with 53,026 deaths from coronavirus-related illness.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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