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CDC Says Social Distancing Applies To Pets After Some Animals Got Coronavirus

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After a number of household pets and other animals around the world reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending that social distancing should applies to pets like cats and dogs, too.

According to the CDC, you should "treat pets as you would other human family members." What does that mean? Don't let your pets interact with people and other animals outside of your household. And if someone in your household gets sick, the pet also needs to be isolated inside. The CDC says dogs should be practicing social distancing on walks, be kept on a leash, and maintain "at least 6 feet from people and other animals." The federal agency also notes that pet owners should "avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather." Cats should also "stay indoors when possible" to keep them from interacting with other people or animals. Bottom line: Keep your pets inside as much as possible, just as you're doing with your family.

The CDC's updated guidance comes after "a small number of animals around the world reported to be infected by the virus that causes COVID-19." For instance, a North Carolina pug named Winston is reportedly one of the first household pets in the United States to test positive for the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Three members in Winston's household tested positive for COVID-19, but only experienced mild symptoms after exhibiting some unusual behavior.

"Pugs are a little unusual in that they cough and sneeze in a very strange way," Winston's owner told WRAL News. "So it almost seems like he was gagging, and there was one day when he didn't eat his breakfast, and if you know pugs, you know they love to eat, so that seemed very unusual."

While Winston might be the first dog in the United States to test positive for COVID-19, two dogs in Hong Kong reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus in late March, according to the New York Post. Household cats in Belgium, Hong Kong, and New York that have also reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, according to National Geographic. But cats and dogs aren't the only animals reportedly impacted by the coronavirus; a total of eight big cats — five tigers and three lions — at the Bronx Zoo in New York also reportedly tested positive for the virus in April, according to ABC News.

If you've tested positive for COVID-19 or are caring for someone who's tested positive, the CDC recommends limiting contact with your animals, which means wearing a cloth face mask and washing your hands frequently. While cuddling with your pup or kitty may not feel risky, until there's more concrete evidence and research surrounding the coronavirus, it's best to follow health experts' advice and practice social distancing.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.