The world’s been living with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 for six months now, and times have been tough. There’s still a lot to learn about the virus and the pandemic has shattered our lives as we knew them. While scientists have learned a lot about the transmission of the virus, one thing has stayed uncertain – could it be transmitted among pets?
There haven’t been many cases of COVID-19 among pets and there certainly haven’t been many studies that examine those particular cases. Rumors here and there have been saying that dogs and cats can transmit it to humans, but what about among themselves? A recent study has found that SARS-CoV-2m, the virus behind COVID-19, can be spread among cats.
Led by professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka from the University of Wisconsin, the study was conducted among cats in a laboratory setting. The researchers administered the virus to three cats initially, putting a virus-free cat in their cages the same day. After two days, an uninfected cat began shedding the virus, and all six cats were infected within six days. The nasal swabs confirmed the presence of COVID-19. Luckily, all of them were able to clear it without major symptoms or consequences.
Professor Kawaoka said that this has been a massive find. His team is currently working on finding a much-needed human vaccine for the coronavirus. The findings suggest that cats can get infected with the virus from other cats or people. The study was a follow-up to another research that suggested the same idea earlier. These findings make one thing clear – people infected with COVID-19 should not only avoid human contact – they should avoid contact with their cats as well.
The team of scientists also suggests that people keep their pet indoors for the duration of the pandemic. There’s no way to know if they get infected from other cats, which could potentially spread the virus back at their homes. Of course, humans remain the biggest risk to other humans in terms of COVID-19 transmission, but the study is something to keep in mind.
There have been several cases where cats have become infected with the virus due to close contact with their owners. Several big cats at zoos around the world have also tested positive for COVID-19. Close contact with their pets is something infected people should be wary of. Animal welfare organizations have been working hard to help infected people quarantining at their homes with their pets. Times have been stressful for everyone including people and their pets.
While the risk of infection from pets is low, cats can get the virus if you’re infected with it. If you own a cat, you should avoid letting it outside. If you are COVID-19 positive, it would be better to limit interaction with your pets in order to protect them. Animal welfare organizations suggest that people should include their pets in emergency planning procedures, keeping at least a two-week supply of food, water, and medications for their cats.
Preparations should also be made in advance if a person needs to be quarantined or hospitalized due to an illness such as COVID-19. Professor Kawaoka’s study was supported by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which makes it a pretty credible source of information.
Keep your cats safe, people! They can get infected with the virus just like us.
Peter J. Halfmann, Masato Hatta, Shiho Chiba, Tadashi Maemura, Shufang Fan, Makoto Takeda, Noriko Kinoshita, Shin-ichiro Hattori, Yuko Sakai-Tagawa, Kiyoko Iwatsuki-Horimoto, Masaki Imai, Yoshihiro Kawaoka. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in Domestic Cats. New England Journal of Medicine, 2020;
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.