According to new research, cats, hamsters, ferrets and minks can contract coronavirus. And as all of you bat, pangolin and civet cat experts out there know, contact with an infected animal could result in animal to human transmission.
As a result, pet owners in Switzerland and abroad are being warned to keep their pets on a short leash – at least until the pandemic subsides.
The Swiss animal clinic network Anicura told 20 Minutes that international experts supported keeping pets away from each other to minimise risks.
“The (American) Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise pet owners to apply social distancing rules to their pets,” said Johannes Kaufmann, a veterinarian from the clinic.
Kaufmann said there was a particular risk that the virus could live for a long time “on the fur or nasal secretions of pets”.
The official CDC recommendation is to “treat pets like other family members, who protect you from possible infection, until we know more about the effects of the virus on animals.”
The CDC recommends that cats be kept inside and dogs be kept at least two metres from other dogs.
Volker Thiel, a virologist from the University of Bern, agrees.
“In principle, social distancing is just as useful for pets as it is for humans, to ensure that pets cannot transmit the virus to humans or other pets” he said.
While there is so far no documented evidence of transmission between pets and humans, a number of animals including big cats and minks have tested positive for the virus.
According to 20 Minutes, Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) is currently completing a research project looking at animal infection risks to humans.
But although social distancing has been advised for pets, the wearing of masks should be primarily a human endeavour.