Research in the Netherlands shows that about 20% of cats and about 15% of dogs in households where someone has COVID-19 will have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in their blood. That percentage is higher than among dogs and cats whose owners have not tested positive. It is likely that the pets were infected by the owners. There are no cases known at this time of infected pets who have infected people. The probability of this is considered very low.

In research among cats in shelters and dogs and cats from households with no link to people who had COVID-19, only a few animals had antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and thus had previously been infected. None of these animals tested positive for the virus. This means that the chance of dogs and cats being infected with SARS-CoV-2 outside their household is very small. Dogs and cats that have a SARS-CoV-2 infection are usually asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms. 

We know that hamsters, ferrets and rabbits, among others, can become infected with the coronavirus SARS-COV-2. No additional precautions are needed, because these animals are usually kept inside the house. 
Minks have also been found to be susceptible to infection with the virus.  The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was detected at a large number of mink farms. All farms in the Netherlands where minks were kept have been cleared.

Recommendations for owners of dogs and cats

The chance that people will catch the virus from the pet is much smaller than the chance that they will catch it from other people in their household. It is advisable for all people in the household who have symptoms to get tested and avoid intensive contact with the ill animal.

Pet owners from a household with COVID-19 are advised to take extra precautions: 

  • Avoid contact with your pet, do not cuddle them, and do not let them lick you.
  • Keep dogs and cats indoors as much as possible during your isolation or quarantine period and/or that of your household members.*
  • Only walk dogs for a short time, and on a leash.
  • Arrange for someone in the household who is not ill to take care of the pet, if possible.
  • Good hygiene is very important.

*If cats (mostly) live outside, keep them outside as much as possible.

It is unlikely that your pet will become ill, even if they do catch the virus. If your pet does develop COVID-19-related symptoms, make sure that the animal does not go to any locations where many animals are together in the same space (play centre, kennel, shelter). If the animal has severe shortness of breath and/or diarrhoea, call the veterinarian. Please indicate to the veterinarian that your pet is in a household with COVID-19. Your veterinarian can consult with the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority to decide whether additional testing or examination will take place.

What is RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment doing?

In the Netherlands, we are alert to new and existing diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Just as humans can catch infectious diseases, animals can also become infected. A small proportion of infectious diseases that animals can catch are also infectious to humans; these are known as zoonoses. Sometimes animals can also catch infectious diseases from humans; these are known as anthropozoonoses.

For that reason, RIVM is also looking at the extent to which animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2 and dould play a role in spreading the virus. RIVM is working with various professionals, including experts in healthcare and veterinary medicine.

Questions about pets

Can my pet become infected with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2?

Worldwide, it appears that pets can become infected with SARS-CoV-2. In the Netherlands, antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 have been found in dogs and cats, indicating that they have been infected. The virus itself was also detected in several dogs and cats. In almost all cases, the pet owners also tested positive for the virus. The chance of pet-to-human transmission is very small compared to human-to-human infection.