• Social distancing guidelines to fight the coronavirus pandemic — which has now infected more than 1 million Americans — don’t just apply to people.
  • The CDC is now recommending that Americans keep their pets at least six feet away from other pets and people when outside.
  • That’s because there have been a handful of instances the center has now identified of peoples’ pets contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus.
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One of the reasons the coronavirus pandemic has sparked such a dramatic response around the globe has to do with the comprehensive spread of the virus — the way it doesn’t limit itself to borders, genders, ages, or races. At this point, according to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins University, more than 1 million people in the US (and almost 3.1 million around the world), have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.

“People” being the operative word. Because that number also doesn’t account for the fact that your pet dog or cat can likewise contract the virus, with the first instances of that happening now having been recorded in the US. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now saying that we need to apply the social distancing rules that have governed our lives for more than a month now to our pets, also.

For example, when you’re inside your home you can interact with your pet the same as always. Outside, however, the pet needs to be kept at least six feet away from other people and pets — and just like when a person in your household gets sick and would then need to be quarantined away from everyone else, the same goes for your pet.

“Social distancing applies to your pets too,” veterinary specialist Dr. Melissa Salgado told ABC News. “They are at risk of developing this disease, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

Here are some of the CDC’s recommended best practices for pet owners:

  • Don’t let pets interact with people or other animals outside of your home.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible.
  • Outside, keep your dog on a leash and maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs might gather.

To be sure, there’s only been a handful of known instances at this point of animals contracting the COVID-19 virus. Two cats in New York were recently identified as the first pets in the country to test positive for the virus, and that’s why the CDC is now recommending that pet owners who want to stay safe during this time should treat their pets the same way they do other members of their family.

“Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low,” the CDC’s guidelines read. “We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.