The novel coronavirus most likely originated in animals, so it’s no surprise that we humans can give the virus to our pets. Though there are few known cases of such transmission, the CDC has recently updated its websites to include social-distancing guidelines for your dog or cat. These recommendations include:

  • Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
  • Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
  • Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.

Keep in mind that these are just precautions to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission to humans. There are only a few known cases of animals getting sick from COVID-19, including a tiger in the Bronx Zoo who caught it from a sick zookeeper. There are two reasons that the CDC has even bothered to mention human-animal transmission.

First, authorities want to minimize the amount of bodies—human, animal, or otherwise—that can carry the disease. The more hosts available to the virus, the easier it is to spread from body to body.

The second reason human-animal transmission is a concern has to do with the basic concepts of virology. Since viruses replicate quickly, they also have high mutation rates. The last thing we want right now is this virus to mutate when it’s in a dog, then jumping back to humans. No one knows what this new mutation can do, so it’s best to follow the CDC’s social-distancing guidelines for animals.