Two guinea pigs sitting together

Small pets and coronavirus

Our coronavirus information on this page is written in line with guidelines issued by the Westminster government for England. If you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you may also be subject to additional restrictions. Our advice is a guide for pet owners and should not be taken as legal advice.

Government guidance states that it is rare for animals, including rodents, to catch coronavirus. If they do contract the virus, they often only show mild symptoms and are better within a few days.

There is evidence that coronavirus can pass from infected humans to rodents and ferrets. Mustelinae mammals, such as ferrets, can also catch new variants of the virus and spread these between their own species. As a precaution, you should:

  • wash your hands with soap before and after any contact with your small pet or ferret, its food and housing 
  • avoid sharing food with your pet
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you’re self-isolating

Your pet’s fur can act as a carrier for Covid-19 like other surfaces. But there is no evidence that washing your pet controls the spread of the virus and you must only use products that are made for pets if you do decide to wash them.

The government has also issued information to ferret owners on what to do if you have a ferret and need to self-isolate. You’ll also need to register your ferret if you haven’t already done so:

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals.

Covid-19 is a new strain of the coronaviruses that is affecting humans. Like seven other strains throughout history, is thought to have made the jump from animals to humans.

The most common human symptoms are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. If you think you may have coronavirus, follow the latest advice found on the NHS website.

Does my pet need to be vaccinated against Covid-19?

Although there have been media reports of an Covid-19 vaccine for animals, this is not currently available. It also isn’t clear whether this would significantly stop the spread of coronavirus in the community. 

Instead, you should follow good hygiene routines including washing your hands before and after any contact with your pet, their food and bedding.

How do I protect my small pet from coronavirus?

If you have Covid-19 or have been asked to self-isolate then, ideally, you should restrict contact with your small pet ie no kissing, cuddling or stroking.

If you are ill and have sole responsibility of your small pet with no help, then wash your hands before and after handling them and wear a face mask.

It’s also good practice to keep your pet’s food and litter areas clean. Keeping your small pet mentally stimulated will keep active minds busy, too. There are many fun ways to create enrichment for your pets that will entertain you both during periods of social distancing and self-isolation due to coronavirus.

What if I think my pet has Covid-19?

If you’re concerned about your small pet because they are unwell, you should contact your vet who will decide if they need to be tested or need any treatment.

Can I still take my small pet to the vet if I have Covid-19?

If you are self-isolating and your pet needs urgent care always speak to your vet. They may be able to re-arrange your appointment or be happy for someone outside your household to bring in your pet for any examinations or treatment.

What if I have a ferret and need to self-isolate?

Your ferret must isolate for 21 days from people and ferrets from other households if:

If you are self-isolating in Scotland, the Scottish government also advises that you ask someone else to care for your ferrets. If this is not possible, you should wear a face mask and gloves, avoid kissing and cuddling your pets, make sure you wash your hands and limit the time spent with them.

If you live in Northern Ireland, DAERA advises that you should avoid contact with ferrets if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or have had a positive test. Ideally someone else would look after your ferret. If this is not possible, you should wear a face mask and gloves.

Read guidance for ferret owners in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We will continue to update this advice as information changes. Keep checking back for the latest updates.

— Page last updated 25/01/2022