For the time being, for the reasons listed below, we think (as non expert pet lovers) that you should consider the following practices:
- Keep house cats indoors at all times
- Treat cat litter with caution - it could be infected
- Quarantine cats from infected humans
Since our last post, public health experts have offered further discussion on COVID-19 and cats. News spread widely this week that some big cats (lions, and tigers... but not bears, oh my) were infected with coronavirus, probably by coming into contact with infected handlers. The big cats have symptoms, but are not in serious condition and are expected to fully recover. In another study, house cats were intentionally dosed with the virus and did become infected - without any symptoms. Apparently, the infected cats were able to infect other cats nearby. Data is limited, and the study has not been peer reviewed, but the one study suggests that cats can become infected with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, public health experts have differing opinions. The American Veterinary Medical AssociationThere does seem to be anecdotal indication that humans can give cats coronavirus, and cats, albeit ones given extremely high doses of the virus in a lab setting, can transmit the virus to other cats. That being possible, there is a remote possibility that cats could transmit coronavirus to humans. Of course, this is in lab conditions and not natural occurence, so it is important not to overstate the findings.
So, what should cat owners do? Should cat owners be afraid of or for their cats? First, there is no indication that cats are endangered by the virus. Your kitty is safe. However, are you safe from your cat? According to the AVMA
there is currently no reason at this time to think that domestic animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with SARS-CoV-2. Accordingly, there is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately. In this emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both.
Nothing in these research articles provides conclusive evidence that cats, ferrets, or other domestic animals can be readily infected with SARS-CoV-2, nor do they demonstrate that cats, ferrets or other domestic animals transmit the virus under natural conditions.
However, Scientific American offers a less rosy interpretation of the data, sagely suggesting that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In other words, just because we haven't seen a cat infect a human doesn't mean that a cat can't infect a human with coronavirus. The British Veterinary Association comes to the same conclusion, contra the AVMA. SciAm also points out that coronavirus was found in cat feces by the study. Further, ferrets were also infected by the virus.
The following new suggestions come out of an abundance of caution. There is no reason to be afraid of your cat or to remove your cat from your house. Human transmission is the real danger. However, the data suggests we should probably be doing some things we wouldn't normally do for safety.
Based on the evidence, some public health agencies are suggesting that we include cats as members of our household that are social distancing. This means, if at all possible, keep cats indoors at all times during this period of self-isolation. Cats have both received the virus from humans, and given the virus to other cats. So, kitty should be quarantined.
Second, treat cat litter with caution. Cat feces can carry coronavirus, so wear gloves and a mask when changing cat litter and treat the litter like it is infected.
Third, quarantine cats from infected humans. If you or someone in your household suspects they have coronavirus, stay away from the cat. Though no human has been infected by a cat, it is a remote possibility, and it is not worth the risk.
We at Petstore.com are committed to supporting people and their pets to make the world a better place through the pet-human bond. As with our last post, please keep in mind that we are neither public health experts nor veterinarians. We are concerned pet lovers researching what public health and veterinary agencies say on the subject.