Owners must act responsibly and care for their pets
A female Siamese cat was confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom in July. Previously, in March, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region confirmed a Pomeranian was infected with the coronavirus.
The news about pets being infected in different places has caused panic among some pet owners.
But Sun Quanhui, a scientist from World Animal Protection, suggests there is no reason for pet owners to be unduly worried, and they should not abandon, abuse or even kill their pets because they fear they might become infected.
According to the World Health Organization, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is considered to be low.
The WHO recommends people who are sick with COVID-19 and those who are in close contact with them limit contact with companion and other animals, and always implement basic hygiene measures, including washing hands after handling animals, their food or supplies, and to avoid kissing their pets and sharing food with them.
The pandemic has given more time for owners to spend time with their pets while on the other hand leaves less time for the cats to stay alone and dogs to go out and play.
Sun says cat owners should create some quiet corner or cat climber to give their cats a choice when they want to be alone and try not to disturb them.
"Both cats and dogs need a certain amount of exercise. With limited opportunities to go outside, owners can use toys and play with their pets," Sun says.
"Using a cat teaser to simulate bird or tiny animal can let the cat enjoy the happiness of hunting, and sufficient and high quality exercise can reduce the behavior of biting people or destroying furniture," he says.
In February, a photo of a cat wearing a blue mask with eye holes cut out of it on a street became a hit on micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo.
The cat was made into a sculpture by a young Japanese amateur sculptor who goes by the pseudonym Meetissai and the sculpture was manufactured and sold online in China. The money is to be donated to Wuhan, Hubei province, which was the main battleground for China's war against the virus.
According to Sun, putting masks on cats or dogs will interfere with their breathing and cause them unnecessary stress.
"For some dogs whose noses and mouths are flat, such as pugs and bulldogs, wearing masks may cause heatstroke," Sun says.
Sun says pet owners should avoid their pets having unnecessary contacts with other pets or humans during the pandemic, and when returning home from outside, pet owners should wash their hands first before touching their pets.
"After walking the dogs, owners should wipe the dogs' hair with wet tissue, especially their faces and claws. They should also bath them and get rid of parasites regularly," Sun says, adding that pet owners also need to be aware whether the disinfecting wipes include elements that are poisonous to animals.
Sun advises pet owners not to bring pets to the wild to lessen the opportunities for contact with wildlife, and to not let the pets go near other pets' faces.
He says cats and dogs have provided companionship for their owners during home quarantines and he urges owners not to abandon their pets under any circumstances.
"Animals should not be the victims of this pandemic. Abandoning pets not only brings unnecessary pain but also causes further panic. It's not the solution for this pandemic," Sun says.
Stray dogs have higher risks of being exposed to zoonotic diseases such as rabies which pose potential threats to people.
"We call on all pet owners to treat their companion pets nicely. The pets are their responsibility once they decide to have them," Sun says.
Sun says adopting stray animals can fulfill people's wish of raising a pet and also reduce the number of stray animals and give them a new home.
"Good-hearted people can call local animal shelters to ask if there are dogs to be taken care of during the work from home period due to the pandemic, which can provide a temporary place for stray dogs before they are adopted," he says.
Sun also notices there are news about owners abandoning wild animals that they have been keeping as pets. He thinks wildlife is neither suitable nor right to raise as pets.
"Raising wildlife pets can be a threat to people's health. Their natural characteristics mean they are not suitable as pets," Sun explains.