Hosting and Visiting in Homes with Pets During (After?) COVID
By Steph Selice
Americans may be traveling more this holiday season than they have in the last 3 years. Many of us will be hosting family and friends for the first time since COVID lockdown began in March 2020. Others will be visiting their folks again, and even bringing their pets. Vets and other animal care professionals have some useful suggestions to share as you think about how you want to host and visit this season. Their insights may help you and your loved ones decide how to safely enjoy the coming months together, and how this will work best for your pets.
Being (Safe) Hosts with the Most
If you’re hosting this year, the rules for safely caring for your pets and for theirs remain much the same as before COVID.
It’s important to prepare your pets for hosting people and animals they don’t see often or may not know. Make sure your pets feel safe and at home. Do what’s needed to make them know that even with new (or familiar) visitors, your place is still their place.
Talk with guests about your house guidelines before they arrive. No one likes to be unpleasantly surprised during a visit. If you want guests to leave their pets at home, tell them, and give them enough time to find a petsitter, kennel, or pet hotel.
Decide whether to welcome kids and other pets. As with other hosting-related decisions, do what works for your family. If saying no is best for your humans and pets, you can always make other arrangements to see loved ones outside your home.
If you decide to host, a couple of weeks before a visit, prepare a sanctuary space for your pets. This can be in a bedroom or quiet area of your home. Include food, water, toys, treats, and other essentials, along with a favorite bed. Give your pets time to get used to a slightly different home arrangement. They’ll know this spot is safe and theirs, if they need a break from people and other pets.
Offer your pets calming treats, soothing music, and gentle bonding routines that are familiar and restful in this safe space, before and during the visit.
After your guests arrive, include your pets in ways that work for them and your visitors. Just as you wouldn’t push people on one another, respecting what works for your animals is essential. You want everyone to have as good a time as they can, as safely as they can. Give pets and folks space and quiet as they need it.
Visiting with Pets (Yours or Theirs)
If you’re going to be the houseguest, talk with your potential hosts ahead of time about who’s welcome in their home. Never just assume your pets are invited, too. And never expect your hosts to accommodate you and your pets before their own family (human and animal).
If your pets are welcome, be the best guest. Be prepared. Bring all needed food and supplies, act responsibly around your pets and theirs, clean up, and don’t make more work for your hosts. This will help ensure you and your pets will feel at home and be welcomed back.
Respect what your hosts do. Take cues from them and their pets about what works in their home. Sometimes animals (and humans!) who should get along don’t, or just might need a break to keep everyone safe and happy.
Be courteous, of course! Your host’s house rules may differ from yours, even if you’re all animal lovers. When you leave, say thanks. Be sure to remove all trace of your pet’s presence unless you offer an intentional present from them.
Keeping Your Humans and Pets COVID Free
Some people disagree about COVID-19 prevention and treatment. But no one wants to host or visit people they love if they have COVID symptoms or signs of other infectious illnesses. Talk with your family and friends before you host them or plan a visit. Make sure you’re all healthy and agree about COVID-related safety. If you decide to visit folks who are in the hospital, other care facilities, or certain public places, you’ll be asked to follow the latest mask and other safety guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and getting a booster shot for the Omicron variant. The CDC posted these facts about COVID-19 and pets in its August 23 update:
- The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals during close contact.
- The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low.
- Pets can get serious illness from infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but this is extremely rare.
Keep current about COVID-19 by checking the websites for the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA; see Resources).
Enjoy your holidays together!
About the Author: Selice has volunteered as an adoption counselor at King Street Cats in Alexandria for seven years as well as penned quite a few columns for the Old Town Crier.
COVID-19 Information About Pets
“What You Should Know about COVID-19 and Pets,” CDC, August 23, 2022
What You Should Know about COVID-19 and Pets | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC
“Current Information About COVID-19 and Pets: Caring for Your Pets with SARS-CoV-2,” American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
“COVID-19: Protect Animals by Planning for Their Care,” AVMA
Selected Metro DC Animal Shelters/Rescues
Animal Welfare League of Alexandria
4101 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22304
Fairfax County Animal Shelter
4500 West Ox Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Friends of Rabbits and House Rabbit Sanctuary
P.O. Box 1112
Alexandria, VA 22313
King Street Cats
25 S. Dove Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Rikki’s Refuge Animal Sanctuary
(1300 animals and 22 species on 450 acres)
Kerry Hilliard, Director
P.O. Box 1357
Orange, VA 22960
Visits by appointment