COVID-19 Coronavirus risk is transmitted person to person through saliva or droplets from an infected person, either directly via cough or sneeze (Hence social distancing) or via contaminated surface which is touched and then transferred to the face (Hence hand washing).
Pet hair is fibrous and porous and this tends to trap the virus making it very unlikely that a person could contract COVID-19 from stroking or interacting with a cat or dog. That said, the normal pet hygiene practice of washing your hands before and after contact with your pet, should be strictly observed. Now is the time to wash the pets bedding and toys.
The current evidence is that a dog cannot be infected with or spread the COVID-19 Coronavirus. It does now appear that a person infected with COVID-19 Coronavirus could infect their cat (Human-pet transmission), however this is not a great concern as the infected person is the one we should worry about, since the virus is easily transmitted person to person.
The current testing done in Hong Kong with a very small number of cats and dogs living with people who had COVID-19 found that 2 dogs had antibodies against the virus but none of the cats did. At this time, no live COVID-19 has been recovered from them, so they are unlikely to be infectious. A cat in Belgium owned by a person with COVID-19 became sick and the cat’s faeces tested positive for COVID-19. It doesn’t tell us anything useful as we don’t know what made the cat ill and what the faeces test means. Could the COVID-19 have come from the owner when she cleaned the tray and not the cat?
So, what do we do? If you are sick or have COVID-19, then you should stay away from your cat or dog and practise good hygiene (Hand washing and wiping surfaces). If you have been in close contact with your pet, then your pet is in isolation with you and should be kept away from healthy people until you have the all clear.
In the meantime, we should all continue to enjoy our pets and keep them safe, by practicing good social distancing from people for us and our pets.