There’s never been a better time to be a dog — well, most dogs. With their people forced inside the house, either because of social distancing or because work has dried up, dogs are getting a lot more one-on-one time and walks.

It’s a similar story for cats, though whether it’s welcome news depends on the cat. Some surely suffer as much as people do because they’re forced to put up with humans who never leave their spaces.

As we’re all forced by pandemic into isolation, our pets are an even more important parts of our lives. We certainly spend more time with them. Sadly, however, they also remind us that there’s little under the sun not affected by this coronavirus.

Early on, we heard from health experts that pets were unaffected. A couple of months later, we were reminded that the “novel” aspect of this “novel coronavirus” means there’s still much to be discovered about how it behaves.

This week that took the form of news that two cats from separate parts of New York state tested positive for the virus. In each case, the cats were brought to a veterinarian because of respiratory problems, the New York Times reports. In one case, a human owner was also positive for COVID-19. In the other, no human in the cat’s household was positive.

The coronavirus can infect all cats, great and small. The Bronx Zoo has reported at least eight cases of coronavirus among its tigers and lions.

That the virus can live among our animals is evident in the changing advice were getting from health officials. Weeks ago they assured us there was no need to be concerned. Now, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “there’s no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States,” reports the Times, health officials are also suggesting protective measures for dogs and cats.

They should stay indoors, much as people do. They should be kept from interaction with other animals or humans, much as people are. And, if someone in the house becomes ill with COVID-19, health officials advise, the sick person should keep clear of the family pet as much as possible — just as they would avoid others living in the house.

That’s a tough one. The companionship of a dog or cat these days is meaningful on a deeper level than it is when times were good, we spent much of our days at work or school, and the rest of our calendars were otherwise full. We’ve always leaned on pets on a psychological level. Now, with fewer human interactions in our lives, canine and feline ones grow in importance.

Maybe there’s even a spiritual element to it. “When you’re looking at souls, animals touch human souls and humans touch animal souls,” Aubrey Fine, psychologist and professor at California Polytechnic State University, told The Associated Press.

Whether you go for that or not, you’ll surely find comfort in the fact that research on coronavirus and pets, such as it is, doesn’t yet show that those infected become nearly as sick as some people do, at least not on the same scale. A trio of veterinary researchers writing in the public affairs website The Conversation recently suggested a silver lining in that “the lack of a pandemic among household pets provides some evidence that they are more resistant than people are.”

The jury is still out, of course. The same researchers note some of the studies so far have been conducted in less-than-ideal circumstances. But we’ll hold out hope for our canine and feline companions that this human pandemic in the end affects them no more deeply than indirectly, as its affects the lives of people around them.

Now, isn’t it time the dog had a walk? It’s only been, what, 15 minutes since the last one.


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