Whether you’re adopting a forever-friend or just providing an animal in need with a loving place to live while shelters are closed, pet safety expert Arden Moore has some handy tips for keeping everyone happy and healthy.

In this crazy time with the coronavirus forcing us to shelter in place, we do have ever-loyal health allies in our homes: our pets. But there are countless dogs and cats and other companion animals in animal shelters all over who could benefit by being adopted — or at least fostered in homes until this pandemic disappears.

Ask yourself: are you getting a little bored being home-bound alone or with your family? Tired of binging on TV shows or putting yet another large puzzle together? Never underestimate paw power!

drawing of a girl seated on the floor stroking a cat's back

Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Cats

Dogs and cats can and do a body good. It is scientifically proven that pets help reduce stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and elevate our moods. They can also fight feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

So, while the cure for COVID-19 remains elusive, you can do your part by agreeing to adopt — or at least foster — a dog or cat currently at an animal shelter. Thanks to modern technology, many shelters are able to do initial home checks via video chats to ensure you and that pet are a good foster match.

If possible, consider fostering an adult or senior dog or cat over a rambunctious puppy or way-too-curious kitten. Adult pets’ personalities are in place. They are less able to get into chewy mischief and are usually potty trained. However, if you are well-experienced in caring for puppies or kittens, you can introduce obedience training and social skills during fostering that will improve a young animal’s chance at finding a permanent home.

illustration of husky-like dog with tail up and wagging

Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

Whether you are hunkered down at home with your personal pets or ready to foster one or more, knowledge is power. Here are my top ten COVID-19 pet safety tips, survival strategies, and facts. Please share this with your pet pals:

  1. Currently, there is no evidence that your pets can get you sick with COVID-19. From what we know about the virus to date, there is nothing to suggest that dogs or cats can spread the virus to people. Though a tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19 and two domestic cats have recently tested positive in the U.S., all of these animals likely contracted the virus through exposure to infected humans. Our understanding of the virus changes daily, so stay on top of updates from the CDC. Until new information is available, if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should isolate yourself from household pets as well as people. It’s also important to remember that dogs and cats are at risk for more common types of respiratory diseases, such as Bordetella, parainfluenza, canine influenza, and feline infectious peritonitis. That is why it is vital that your pet is always up to date on his vaccinations.
  2. Petting your dog or cat’s coat is a very low risk. The COVID-19 virus survives best on smooth surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs — not porous materials, such as pet fur or paper money.

    illustration of a hand reaching down to pet the belly of a dachshund

    Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Dogs

  3. Practice safe distancing and hygiene on dog walks. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after each walk. Carry a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. Do not let people on walks interact with you or your dog. Give a friendly wave from a distance. When you come home, use a pet-safe cleaner to wipe their paws before entering your home.
  4. Dogs and cats do NOT need to wear face masks to protect against the COVID-19 virus. These masks could cause breathing problems in your pets and heighten their stress levels. However, if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you should wear a mask to prevent spreading the virus to others in the form of droplets from sneezing, coughing, or talking.
  5. Practice pet safety during craft time with kids. If doing crafts with your kids at home, take extra precautions to not leave yarn, thread, or other string-like things out as they may cause choking as well as throat and stomach obstructions if swallowed by a curious pet. It’s important to make sure pets do not have access to toxic materials like craft glue, or to tiny craft objects, puzzle pieces, or Lego pieces that they can swallow.
  6. Keep pets from no-no people foods and snack bags. Pets, unlike people, cannot tolerate chocolate, avocados, Macadamia nuts, and any sugar-free foods (containing xylitol). Make sure not to leave empty chip or other types of snack bags lying around. Some dogs (and cats) can stick their noses in these bags, get stuck, and suffocate.
  7. Clear the air and skip liquid potpourris and essential oil diffusers. In your attempt to ‘clear the stale air’ in your home, potpourri and essential oils can cause respiratory injuries and chemical burns to your pets.
  8. Watch out for certain cleaning ingredients. Ammonia and chlorine (bleach) are powerful respiratory irritants that can cause dizziness, vomiting and mucous membrane damage in pets. If you use these cleaners, keep your pets in another room until the surfaces dry and have no more residue. Or use these pet-safe household cleaners: Better Life, BioKleen, Seventh Generation, Tru All-Natural Multi-Purpose Cleaner. Or opt for DIY pet-safe household cleaner: use distilled white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide.

    Illustration of person reaching down to pet a friendly cat

    Illustration © Ryan Wheatcroft, excerpted from A Kid’s Guide to Cats

  9. Practice de-stressing exercises like deep breathing. Pets can smell our emotional states. When you are calm, they, too, can calm. So, try breathing in deeply, holding your breath for three seconds, and then exhale.
  10. Treat your pet to mental and physical enrichment activities daily. Bring out the inner hunter in your pet by going bowl-free and putting kibble in a pet food puzzle. Teach your dog (and yes, cat) a new trick or word command. See if your pet likes to paw at pet games on a tablet or laptop. Try teaching your dog to shake, or make a treat-dispensing cat toy for your cat. Projects like these are a great way to bond with your four-legged friend and they help keep animals’ bodies and minds active. Remember, a tired pet is a happy pet.

Arden Moore

Arden Moore is the author of more than two dozen books on cats and dogs, including A Kid’s Guide to Cats, A Kid’s Guide to… See Bio

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