Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 01:50 pm
New research has confirmed that cats can become infected with COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know…
This is according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on 13 May 2020.
According to U.S. and Japanese scientists, in the laboratory, cats can readily become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and may be able to pass the virus to other cats.
Researchers administered to three cats SARS-CoV-2 isolated from a human patient. The following day, the researchers swabbed the nasal passages of the cats and were able to detect the virus in two of the animals. Within three days, they detected the virus in all the cats.
The day after the researchers administered the virus to the first three cats, they placed another cat in each of their cages. Researchers did not administer SARS-CoV-2 virus to these cats.
Each day, the researchers took nasal and rectal swabs from all six cats to assess them for the presence of the virus. Within two days, one of the previously uninfected cats was shedding virus, detected in the nasal swab, and within six days, all the cats were shedding virus. None of the rectal swabs contained virus.
Cats shed the virus, but don’t have symptoms
Each cat shed SARS-CoV-2 from their nasal passages for up to six days. The virus was not lethal and none of the cats showed signs of illness. All the cats ultimately cleared the virus.
“That was a major finding for us – the cats did not have symptoms,” says lead researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.
Prof Kawaoka is also helping to lead an effort to create a human COVID-19 vaccine called CoroFlu.
Cats can be infected by people
The findings suggest that cats may be capable of becoming infected with the virus when exposed to people or other cats positive for SARS-CoV-2. It follows a study published in Science that also showed cats (and ferrets) could become infected with and potentially transmit the virus. The virus is known to be transmitted in humans through contact with respiratory droplets and saliva.
“It’s something for people to bear in mind,” says Peter Halfmann, a research professor at UW-Madison who helped lead the study. “If they are quarantined in their house and are worried about passing COVID-19 to children and spouses, they should also worry about giving it to their animals.”
Keep your cats indoors
Both researchers advise that people with symptoms of COVID-19 avoid contact with cats. They also advise cat owners to keep their pets indoors, in order to limit the contact their cats have with other people and animals.
Kawaoka is concerned about the welfare of animals. The World Organisation for Animal Health and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say that there is “no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare”.
Can you catch COVID-19 from a cat?
Humans remain the biggest risk to other humans in the transmission of the virus. There is no evidence that cats readily transmit the virus to humans, nor are there documented cases in which humans have become ill with COVID-19 because of contact with cats.
“Cats are still much more likely to get COVID-19 from you, rather than you get it from a cat,” says Keith Poulsen, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, who recommends that pet owners first talk to their veterinarians about whether to have their animals tested. Testing should be targeted to populations of cats and other species shown to be susceptible to the virus and virus transmission.
With respect to pets, “We’re targeting companion animals in communal residences with at-risk populations, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Poulsen says. “There is a delicate balance of needing more information through testing and the limited resources and clinical implications of positive tests.”
So, what should pet owners do?
Ruthanne Chun, associate dean for clinical affairs at UW Veterinary Care, offers the following advice:
- If your pet lives indoors with you and is not in contact with any COVID-19 positive individual, it is safe to pet, cuddle and interact with your pet.
- If you are COVID-19 positive, you should limit interactions with your pets to protect them from exposure to the virus.
“As always, animal owners should include pets and other animals in their emergency preparedness planning, including keeping on hand a two-week supply of food and medications,” she says. “Preparations should also be made for the care of animals should you need to be quarantined or hospitalised due to illness.”
Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison via www.sciencedaily.com
- HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF: Basic advice from the WHO on how to protect yourself from Covid-19
- HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS: COVID-19 protection: The best way to wash your hands
- THE COVID-19 VIRUS ON SURFACES: How long does the coronavirus last on surfaces and could it be in the air?
- GLOBAL SPREAD OF COVID-19: For the latest update on the global spread of COVID-19, visit the Johns Hopkins University’s GIS dashboard
- COVID-19 SOUTH AFRICAN RESOURCE PORTAL: https://sacoronavirus.co.za
- COVID-19 & CHILDREN: How to talk to your kids about coronavirus
While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.