Infectious Diseases

Cats and COVID-19: What We Know

Posted on 3 June 2020

Back in April, the US reported its first confirmed case of two domestic cats becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2, most likely as a result of contact with infected humans. Before then, a tiger at Bronx Zoo in New York also tested positive for COVID-19. However, reports of human to feline transmission remain rare, and there is no evidence that cats can transmit the virus back to humans.

Nevertheless, perhaps there is still some cause for concern, as last month it was confirmed that cats can transmit the virus to other cats. The study inoculated three cats with SARS-CoV-2, and co-housed each one with another cat with no previous infection. Within 3 days of contact, all of these cats tested positive for COVID-19.

There is still no evidence that cat to human transmission can occur. Nevertheless, the authors of the above study suggest the possibility should be investigated. If cats can transfer the virus to humans, they could act as an intermediate host between households, even during isolation. Furthermore, while the two aforementioned domestic cats in the US showed mild respiratory symptoms, the cats in this study were all asymptomatic, meaning owners would not necessarily be able to tell that their cat was infected.

The Center for Disease Control has compiled recommendations and guidance concerning animals and COVID-19, which can be found here. According to the CDC, the risk of animals spreading the virus to humans remains low. If you are still concerned, washing your hands thoroughly after touching your pet is advisable (Covid or otherwise), although it is possible to take things too far…

 The makeshift masks are made using a human-sized face mask, with eye holes cut in to them

References

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Domestic Cats: DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2013400

2 cats in NY become first US pets to test positive for virus: https://apnews.com/37328ab8db093b8346e26e1840b48af8

COVID-19 and Animals: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html

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