Coronavirus (COVID-19) and snuggling with pets
Within the last couple of days, I've become aware that pet sitters, pet owners, and pet lovers apparently need to be aware of another concern with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) - contact with pets!
Both the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (website for both are at the base of this post) have cautioned that experts are not 100% sure if the virus spreads between people and pets, and vice versa, so they are recommending that we limit close contact with our pets, and for pet sitters, this includes your pet clients as well.
The experts recommend that we don't snuggle with our pets, share food, and give the wonderful hugs and kisses we like to give our pets, during this time of virus crisis. They also want us to thoroughly wash our hands before and after we touch pets.
This might sound a little extreme, but because we don't have all the answers about the Coronavirus yet, we should err on the side of caution. We don't want our pets to become ill, our ourselves to become ill via them.
Pet sitters should have a backup plan in place should they become ill with the virus and can't (and shouldn't) continue their pet visits. For larger pet sitting companies with employees, just have another employee take over your pet visits. If that happens make sure that, if not already done so, clients are notified of the situation. If clients have already told you they don't want to be contacted while they are away except in an extreme emergency with your pets' or home's safety, then just write that there was a change in pet sitter, and why in your daily log. Or, use your own judgment to determine if this would be an "extreme emergency" or not in the eyes of your vacationing clients.
Make sure your replacement pet sitter disinfects the doorknobs and other likely surfaces that were touched while they were at their last pet visit to the house. This could include the clients' kitchen counters, pet food and water bowls, leashes, litter boxes, etc...
A pet sitter might also want to contact the client's vet office to let them know that a pet sitter who had the virus had contact with the pet. The vet will give a professional opinion regarding if the pets have to be medically seen or not. The vet may tell the new pet sitter what symptoms to look out for in the pets who had contact with an ill sitter.
If you are a solo pet sitter and have contracted the virus, then you should already have in your clients' information file, a name or two of the clients' closes neighbors or relatives, who are willing to take over pet care. Worst-case scenario, contact clients and let them know what is happening. This is unchartered territory and a different sort of crisis than pet sitters are used to handling, but if sitters have discussed emergency planning with their clients, everything should go smoothly.
Hopefully, there will most likely not be any concerns regarding the human/pet connection as more information comes forward, but in the meantime, we should all be extra cautious for our own sakes, and for everyone's precious pets.
Keeping up with crisis information is important for all of us. Daily cleansing of the items I mentioned above for pet sitters, might want to be considered for your private home for pet owners as well until more answers are available.
Here are the websites I mentioned if you want to get more detailed information.
Reflection questions for Pet Sitters:
1. Do you have an emergency plan in place?
2. Have you discussed this plan with your pet sitting clients?
Reflection questions for Pet Owners:
1. Have you disinfected your pets' bowls, litter boxes, toys, pet beds, and leashes today?
2. In what ways can you still interact with your pet without close snuggling during this time of Coronavirus crisis?