Since we’re entering kitten season, there will be lots of animals in shelters needing homes. I’ve done a couple of virtual talks for shelter groups this week, with a focus on implementing physical distancing and other preventive measures, while maintaining as much of a semblance of normal shelter operations as possible.

I’ve also had quite a few questions from people asking about any risks that might be associated with adopting an animal from a shelter at this time. In all those discussions, I’ve emphasized the need for some basic practices, similar to what you see in grocery stores right now. If a shelter uses good preventative practices, I’d have no hesitation adopting a new pet.

It’s always useful to put a personal spin on discussions like that, and that’s easier since we adopted a new kitten today ourselves.

Was I worried about COVID-19?  No.

  • The shelter confirmed the health status of the fostering family before bringing the cat back to the shelter, and transfer of the critter was contactless.
  • The odds of the kitten being infected or his haircoat being contaminated with SARS-CoV-2 aren’t zero, but they’re exceptionally low. The drive to and from the shelter was likely the greater health risk.

There will always be infectious disease risks when adopting new animals, even without SARS-CoV-2. However, with some common sense practices, the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is negligible. We’re much more likely to get infected with our typical new-pet-associated pathogens like Campylobacter, but some basic hygiene measures (e.g. hand hygiene) can minimize those risks as well.

Here’s the yet-to-be-renamed kitten. (He actually currently has about 20 names, many of which are hockey players). My personal health risks will probably be greater navigating the family name debate than anything else.