How COVID-19 affects animals
Animals can catch SARS-CoV-2. This is the virus that causes COVID-19. It is rare, and they may show only mild clinical signs and recover within a few days. There is evidence that the following species can catch the virus that causes COVID-19:
- big cats
- domestic cats
- ferrets and polecats
- fruit bats
- pigs (these are less prone to catching SARS-CoV2)
- raccoon dogs
- rodents, including hamsters
- white tailed deer
There is growing evidence that mink, racoon dogs, cats, white-tailed deer and hamsters can spread the virus through close contact with their own species in captivity.
Limited evidence suggests that COVID-19 can pass:
- from infected humans to the listed animals after close contact or sharing their equipment or airspace
- between mink kept in captivity and then transfer to humans in close contact
- from infected hamsters to humans in close contact
Animal fur can act as a carrier (known as fomite transmission) for the virus that causes COVID-19 for short periods of time, in the same way as other surfaces.
In line with public health guidance, you should:
- wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food or bedding – avoid hand sanitisers or wipes that may be harmful to animals
- do not share food, food bowls or utensils with your pet
There is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of COVID-19. You should only wash your pets in the usual way and use products on them that are approved for use on animals.
If you’re concerned about your pet because it has respiratory or digestive problems and a temperature, you should contact your vet who will decide if it needs to be tested.
If you own a ferret
You should keep your ferret at home for 21 days if:
This means you should prevent contact between your ferret and ferrets or people from other households.
Register your ferret or other mustelinae
If you’re a keeper in England or Wales, you should register your ferret or other mustelinae on the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) register.
You should follow separate guidance if you’re in Scotland.
A keeper of ferrets or other mustelinae is someone who takes care of them on a daily basis at work or as pets at home.
Other mustelinae include:
- hybrids of these animals
Registration is voluntary. The register provides information on how to reduce the risk of you or your animal catching COVID-19. You’ll get alerts if there is a COVID-19 outbreak among ferrets or other mustelinae.
Who to contact about the ferret register
If you have any questions about the ferret register, telephone:
- 0800 6341112 for keepers in England or Wales
- 01466 794323 for keepers in Scotland
If you need to take your animal to the vet
In England, you are no longer required to wear a face covering.
You should wear a face covering if your vet asks you to. Read guidance on making and wearing a face covering.
If you have COVID-19
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, test positive or live with someone who has or might have COVID-19, follow guidance for people with COVID-19 and their contacts.
Avoid contact with animals
If you have COVID-19 you should not:
- kiss or cuddle an animal
- share food, food bowls or utensils
- shared bedding
You should follow the COVID-19 cleaning guide to clean animal bedding and other items, such as leads or feeding bowls.
If you’re avoiding contact with other people you should consider:
- making a plan for the care and welfare of your animals
- arranging for someone who is not avoiding contact with people, or use professional services, to care for your animals
- telling anyone caring for your animals that you’re avoiding contact with people and arrange a no-contact service where possible
If there is no one to help, you should contact your vet or yard manager. Recognized trade bodies or associations may also be able to support you.
If an animal in your care needs emergency veterinary care while you’re avoiding contact with people, you should consider arranging for someone else to take it to the vet.
You can take the animal to the vet yourself if necessary.
Exercising your animal
If your animal cannot be exercised at home, you should consider asking someone who is not avoiding contact with people to exercise your animal for you.
If it is not possible for someone else to exercise the animal for you, you may take the animal to exercise outdoors. You should visit places where you will not have contact with other people.
If you are exercising an animal on behalf of someone who is avoiding contact with people, you should wash your hands before and after contact with it.
Working with animals
Follow the guidance for working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19).
As an employer, you should consider:
- completing a health and safety risk assessment that includes risks from COVID-19 and take into account any reasonable adjustments for staff and customers with disabilities
- sharing the assessment with your staff
Follow the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on how to do a risk assessment during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Your risk assessment for any activity in the workplace should also consider the risk of anyone coming into contact with animals, particularly those susceptible to COVID-19. This includes visitors coming to an event.
- minimize contact with animals – such as petting or handling by the general public
- prevent people with COVID-19 symptoms from coming into contact with these animals
- ask staff or visitors to wash their hands before and after contact with animals, their food or bedding – avoid hand sanitisers or wipes that may be harmful to animals
- prevent staff or visitors from breathing, coughing or sneezing on an animal, for example you can ask them to wear a face covering
- warn staff or visitors not to allow an animal to lick them
More information on COVID-19 and animals is available on third party websites. The advice may not be accessible to users of assistive technology:
If you have any queries, email the APHA Customer Advice team firstname.lastname@example.org.
For commercial transporter inquiries, email the APHA Welfare in Transport team WIT@apha.gov.uk.