Obviously we are living in unprecedented times. It seems that daily, or perhaps even hourly, we are seeing and hearing things on the news which leaves us frightened and confused. For those of us who love and house animals, many of us wonder about the coronavirus and the way in which it affects our four-legged friends.
A cat in Belgium tested positive last week for this virus that is now sweeping the globe. But does this mean that we all need to fear for our feline friends or is this simply something that’s extremely rare and shouldn’t cause us to worry?
For the cat in Belgium, it was confirmed as the very first case of a feline contracting the Coronavirus from their infected owner.
Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science that the cat developed classic coronavirus symptoms, which includes: diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues.
A study out of China is now telling us that cats and ferrets, unlike dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks, can transmit and pass the virus to one another. (The study found that ferrets were less affected.) It’s been discovered through research that cats are able to transmit the virus to one another through respiratory droplets. And by doing so, infect other felines.
But it’s important to note that this study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The study was presented by award-winning Dr. Hualan Chen with the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes the infectious disease COVID-19, which was first reported in Wuhan, China in December, 2019. Despite the tremendous efforts to control the disease, COVID-19 has now spread to over 100 countries and caused a global pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have originated in bats; however, the intermediate animal sources of the virus are completely unknown. Here, we investigated the susceptibility of ferrets and animals in close contact with humans to SARS-CoV-2. We found that SARS-CoV-2 replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks, but efficiently in ferrets and cats. We found that the virus transmits in cats via respiratory droplets. Our study provides important insights into the animal reservoirs of SARS-CoV-2 and animal management for COVID-19 control.
Professor and virologist at the University of Nottingham, Jonathan Ball, told the Guardian that,
“Human to human transmission is clearly the main driver, so there is no need to panic about cats as an important source of virus. Obviously, if you think you have Covid-19 and share a house with a cat, then it would be sensible to limit close interactions with your furry friend until you are better.”
Dr. William Schaffner, who serves as a professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, feels strongly that the results of Dr. Chen’s study are somewhat misleading. Additionally, it seems these findings are based off of circumstances which wouldn’t reflect the everyday lives of our feline friends. Cats used in the study were exposed to extremely high doses of the virus up the nostrils; the cats used in the study were five, 8-month-old felines.
Dr. Schaffner says, “That’s a whole lot more than an average human would get. So this is an artificial circumstance and we don’t know that it happens in nature at all.”
Bear in mind that cat to human transmission of the coronavirus is still thought to be highly unlikely. I won’t go as far as to say impossible as we are learning new things each and every day. If anything, we lean on our feline friends even more during this time of need. According to the CDC, right now there is no evidence that cats or other pets can spread COVID-19. So, for me, this won’t prevent me from coming into close proximity with my cats.