Study shows cats can easily spread coronavirus to each other – here’s what that means for cat owners
Cats are not immune to the novel coronavirus, and the infection can easily transmit to them from other cats, said a new research.
“Cats may be a silent intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2 because infected cats may not show any appreciable symptoms that might be recognized by their owners,” said researchers from Japan’s University of Tokyo and the US-based University of Wisconsin.
The research published in The New England Journal of Medicine was prompted after two pet cats were detected COVID-19 positive in the US. Two other instances have been found in Belgium and Hong Kong.
The researchers took three cats as samples who were inoculated — meaning they were vaccinated to raise their immunity against diseases.
“One day later, a cat with no previous SARS-CoV-2 infection was co-housed with each of the inoculated cats to assess whether transmission of the virus by direct contact would occur between the cats in each of the three pairs,” the research said.
“We detected the virus from two of the inoculated cats. By day three, the virus was detectable in all three inoculated cats,” the researchers added.
They said the cats during the study did not show any virus symptoms, including abnormal body temperature or substantial weight loss.
The researchers say recent reports of COVID-19 transmission from humans to pet cats and between big cats at the Bronx Zoo, coupled with their recent data, shows “there is a public health need to recognize and further investigate the potential chain of human–cat–human transmission.” Previous studies have shown that cats and ferrets are susceptible to the virus, but dogs less so.
Both Kawaoka and Peter Halfmann, a research professor at University of Wisconsin–Madison who helped lead the study, advise people with COVID-19 symptoms to avoid contact with cats. They also say cat owners should keep their pets indoors to limit the interaction their cats have with other animals and people.
“It’s something for people to keep in mind,” Halfmann said. “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 cats indoors whenever possible, the CDC says, and walk dogs on a leash, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people and animals.
The agency also recommends keeping dogs away from public places where large numbers of people and animals gather, such as dog parks.
If someone is ill with Covid-19 — whether suspected or confirmed — officials recommend another member of the household care for pets.
If that’s not possible, people should wear cloth face coverings around animals, making sure to wash their hands before and after any interactions.
And when people are sick, officials say they should refrain from petting or snuggling with their pets — and avoid being kissed or licked by them.