COVID-19 In Cats: Update 2021

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The year 2020 has been challenging across the globe as we all became familiar with the ravages of COVID-19, also known as the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Initially discovered in late 2019, 2020 was a time of learning more about this deadly virus.

While COVID-19's greatest impact is on the human population, there has also been some animals who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Here's what cat owners need to know about how COVID-19 can affect our feline family members.

Cats Can Also Get COVID-19

  • We know that cats are susceptible to COVID-19.
  • In several research experiments, cats exposed to Covis-19 became positive for the virus.
  • in the “real world”, there are several documented cases where cats were infected by their owners.
  • One study from Wuhan, China found that 14.7% of cats tested were positive for antibodies against COVID-19. Finding antibodies indicates that the cats were previously infected.
  • A study in Hong Kong of cats living in households with people who had COVID-19 showed that 12% of the cats tested positive.
  • Antibodies remain in the blood after the infection.
  • A study from France found antibodies in 24-59% of cats from COVID-19 positive households.

Cats living with people with COVID-19 can become infected.
Human-to-cat transmission in households is likely common.

Symptoms Your Cat Has COVID-19

  • Most cats that test positive for COVID-19 show no symptoms.
  • Experimentally, clinical signs in cats have been pretty unremarkable. Most infected cats have been reported to be healthy, but it’s not always the case.
  • When an otherwise healthy adult indoor cat with no contact with other cats develops signs of upper respiratory tract infection around the time its owner had COVID-19, it’s pretty suggestive since there aren’t many other probable causes for the cat’s illness.
  • Similar to people, most exposed cats probably don’t get sick or get mild disease.
  • A subset get more serious disease, and a smaller subset may even die from the infection.
  • The relative size of those different groups is completely unknown.

Cats Can Infect Other Cats With COVID-19

  • Experimentally, cats have been shown to infect other cats.
  • That’s also been seen outside the lab, with the outbreak in lions and tigers in the Bronx Zoo (where cat-to-cat transmission was more likely than all the big cats being infected by people).
  • How often this occurs in households is unknown

Can Your Get COVID-19 From Your Cat?

We don’t know whether a person can be infected with COVID-19 from their cat.

Since cats can infect other cats, we have to assume there’s some risk of them infecting people. However, sorting out how much of a risk is a challenge.

. Your average pet cat mainly or only has contact with its owners, especially when an owner has COVID-19 and visitors hopefully are not around. If I get COVID-19 and infect my cat, and then the rest of my family gets sick, did I infect them or did the cat? Most likely, it was me, and it would be essentially impossible to differentiate.

Since there’s limited testing of cats and little likelihood that samples from both owner and cat would be sequenced, the odds of identifying a cat as the source of a human infection are low.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the things we have learned about cats and COVID-19 include:

  • Avoid contact between infected people and cats.
  • As in people, older cats and cats with underlying diseases may be more susceptible to severe disease.
  • The risk of cats spreading the virus in a household is limited, however cats should be isolated from infected family members.
  • Cats with the virus should be isolated from other animals.
  • If a cat has been exposed to COVID-19, isolate it indoors away from other animals including people for 14 days.

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