The veterinary community is mainly dealing with this question against the pandemic Coronavirus. One of the main reasons for the pet owners to panic is because the COVID-19 had initially originated from the animals. Also, a positive case had been found in Hong-Kong, where an elderly Pomeranian of 17 years old was found positive with COVID-19 and died after two days of its release from the quarantine period. However, veterinarians said that the death of the dog was not due to COVID-19, but because of its old age. Lately, a new case has come into the light, where a German Shepherd in Pok Fu Lam area of Hong-Kong is found positive with COVID-19 and has been sent to quarantine.
Recently, a few members of the cat family also contracted Coronavirus. A 4-year old Malayan tigress of the Bronx Zoo, located in New York, was the first feline member to be tested COVID-19 positive. Later, a few more tigers and lions of the same zoo contracted the disease. Also, two pet cats have been reported COVID-19 positive. But, in all the cases, the transmission of the disease took place from humans to these animals. However, these cases have led to the rise of fear and doubts among the cat owners.
What is Coronavirus?
A Coronavirus is usually a group of viruses that are proven to be communicable. The symptoms of this virus are pretty common. It includes running nose, cough, mild fever, and sore throat. COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused due to the Coronavirus. Presently, it has been declared as a pandemic in the world. It is spreading at a faster rate, and already 2, 308,595+ cases have been reported across the globe. The death toll has reached 13000+. However, 95829+ people have recovered from COVID-19 due to the constant monitoring and effective treatment of the doctors. Thanks to the medical industry for providing continuous health support and care, and also keeping the world informed on the necessary preventive measures for the disease.
Although many cases have been reported, there is no proven complaint or report regarding the symptoms of Coronavirus showing up in cats. Also, there are no proven reports about the roles of animals in spreading this disease.
What is the take of WHO?
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes Corona as a virus that spread from human to human who is in close contact. Especially, people who are in contact at a distance of nasal and oral pathway have a higher probability of acquiring this disease. But there is no proven evidence that cats can get Coronavirus due to the contact of affected humans. Human to animal transmission is still a theory, and it is yet to be validated.
Since cats belong to the mammalian species, there are small chances of them being tested positive. But these are sporadic cases where the virus is found in the receptors only. Other mammals like dogs, camels, bats, also might have the slightest possibility to get affected by the Coronavirus. However, it is not due to transmission from humans. Theoretically, even if the pets are tested positive, the chance of the Coronavirus getting into the receptor cells and affecting their body is not possible.
Why the idea of spreading the virus from animals to humans?
Animals rarely transmit Coronavirus to humans. However, there is a serious thought on the origin of Coronavirus from bats, which may infect other mammals, including humans. But it is not yet proven that COVID-19 can be transmitted to humans through animals or birds. Unlike in the last two pandemic diseases like SARS and MERS, there were intermediate hosts of spreading the respective viruses in humans.
Even though, later in February, when the 17-years old Pomeranian dog was tested positive for Corona, it was not much alarming. The dog did not show any symptoms or illness. The transmission was possibly from the dog owner, who was tested positive for COVID-19, to the dog, but not the vice versa. Similarly, in the second case of the German Shepherd dog, there is a possibility that the disease got transmitted from his owner, who was also tested positive for COVID-19. Hence, there is no need to panic about the occurrence of Coronavirus transmission from pets to humans.
Coronavirus in feline creatures
If you look deeply into the situation, you will find that some cases have been recently reported where even the feline animals got hunted down by COVID-19. One such case that shocked the entire world was the positive Coronavirus report of a 4-year old Malayan tigress of the Bronx Zoo, named Nadia. After she started showing specific symptoms of dry cough, the veterinary team became quite alert, considering the on-going pandemic situation. She was immediately taken through several diagnostic and blood tests only to reveal that the assumptions of the vet doctors were correct. Although not proven, the doctors suspect that Nadia might have got this infection from her care-taker. It was the first case where a big cat was tested positive.
Followed by the above incident, it was reported that 4-more tigers and 3-lions have also been tested positive for COVID-19. On the very same day, the Centers for disease control and Prevention, United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), and National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) reported that 2-pet cats in New York, USA has also been tested positive. In the first case, it has been found that the owner of the cat was diagnosed with Coronavirus. But for the second cat, this was not the scenario; instead, no one in its house was tested COVID-19 positive. Hence, it remains uncanny as to how the second cat developed the disease. It must also be noted that both cases were reported from two different areas. The earliest symptoms reported in these two cases were of mild respiratory illness. These cats were tested in private veterinary laboratories, and the reports were later shared with the concerned organizations. Nevertheless, those cats are expected to recover soon.
CDC claims that COVID-19 cases found in animals are either due to the contraction of the virus from their COVID-positive owners or care-takers. So, there is no proven evidence of cats to spread the disease amongst humans directly. However, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) assumes that there may be a sudden surge in the number of animals that can get affected by this disease. So, right now, it is essential to find out what other species might get affected by COVID-19 and take the necessary precautions.
Animals can be a fomite of COVID-19
Since there is no substantial evidence that animals like cats can carry a virus, it does not mean you can be careless. Taking the risk lightly at this serious moment should be an act of foolishness. Many of the animals might not be the direct carriers but can still transmit the disease via their body hair, saliva, or other bodily discharges. Thus, the animals can transform into a fomite of the disease.
A fomite generally refers to a material from which one can transmit the diseases easily. Anything, even your cat can be a fomite of COVID-19, even though they are not affected or do not develop any illness, the virus in them can live for long. It is not only applicable to the COVID-19 virus but also other viruses that can affect you from your feline member’s health. Though the transmission risk of Coronavirus from the animals to humans is much less, yet you should always keep in mind that prevention is better than cure. And with the present scenario in mind, it can be said that only one carrier is responsible for infecting a thousand others. So, stay aware and take proper care of your pets and yourself.
In case your cat gets infected, then the things used by your pet, or even any discharge from its body can be responsible for the spreading of the virus. So, it is better to maintain distance and proper hygienic practices to avoid such infections and spreading of the virus.
Are cats at risk of getting Coronavirus?
Even though sometimes cats may be infected by this virus, it may not cause any illness in them. Also, the disease will not be transmissible to any other species. Especially when your cats are usually at home and not in contact with any other cats or animals outside, then the odds of acquiring COVID-19 are not merely possible.
It is recommended that when you or anyone of your house is affected by COVID-19, restrict contact with your cat. They can be taken care of by any other member of the family who is not infected by the virus, or leaves it at a healthcare center for a while until you recover. Avoid direct contact with your cats, which include petting, being licked, or sharing food with them. When you even feel the slightest symptoms of COVID-19, you can take some preventive measures in staying away from your pets. Use sanitizers and frequently get yourself cleaned before and after interacting with the cats.
As you know, cats are usually very interactive, and they use their mouth for most of their communications. Hence, there are chances that they might get infected while licking or playing with you. One can even wear masks when they are in contact with the cats. This precaution will make you and your cat safe.
Even though Coronavirus is not going to affect them, the cats can become a host for certain other viruses, which are mentioned below.
|Feline Immunodeficiency Virus||Fatigue and tiredness
Become unconscious suddenly
Loss of appetite
|Feline Leukemia Virus||Symptoms are not visible
Looks like common fever sometimes
|Feline Panleukopenia Virus||Discharge of body fluids
Lack of appetite
|Feline Calicivirus||Nasal discharge
|Feline Herpesvirus||Respiratory problems
Lack of appetite
Sudden unconsciousness and always seem to be confused
Amidst pandemic COVID-19, there are chances that you are missing out on similar symptoms mentioned above. If you are not sure about the symptoms, then you are recommended to take your cats to the vets for proper treatment and care. It is suggested that you receive an opinion from the doctors rather than jumping to conclusions on your own.
What are the preventive measures that can be taken against COVID-19?
There are certain practical measures that you can take to keep your cats safe during the pandemic outbreak. Some of those preventive measures that can be taken to avoid the transmission of Coronavirus from cats to humans and vice versa are stated below.
- Make sure that you clean your cat at least twice a day until the pandemic is settled. Cats are not very fond of water, but utilize this time as an opportunity to put them in a routine. There are waterless cat bath formulas like Vet’s Best that can clean the cats efficiently and does not take much of your time as well.
- Ensure that the sanitizer you use contains at least 60% alcohol to act as a disinfectant.
- Avoid taking the cats to public places.
- Do not take them to hospitals, where the bacteria or virus can be quickly spread.
- Provide your cats with nutritious food and fill their stomach. They are natural predators and might go for hunting otherwise.
- Clean and disinfect the objects often touched by your pets.
- Maintain a distance of personal space with your cat.
- Boost your cat’s immune system with supplements like Vetriscience Laboratories. These immunity boosters can help them in enhancing their endurance and increasing the overall strength of their body.
Do the cats need to wear a mask?
Masks for cats are not very useful while considering the aspect of preventing diseases. COVID-19 is transmitted only through body fluid and droplets. So, being a responsible pet owner, it is wise you should use a mask or avoid sneezing in front of your cat.
Are there any vaccines available for cats to prevent COVID-19?
There are no vaccines found yet for the cats to avoid COVID-19. However, the vets are suggesting that taking the ‘common vaccine’ can prevent various types of respiratory diseases. For example, Parainfluenza, canine influenza, and Bordetella vaccines are available, which can be taken to increase the overall immunity of the cats.
How to take care of your cat during this pandemic?
Though there are no COVID-19 proved cases seen in cats, and nothing has been confirmed yet that animals can get infected or become the medium of spreading the disease, the risk cannot be ignored. It is so because already two cases of Coronavirus have been seen in two dogs. So, there is not as such a guarantee that your cat is not going to get affected with COVID-19. As the virus is changing its character continuously and becoming more harmful, so, being a cat owner, it is your responsibility to keep your cat safe and take care of it to avoid any such contamination or infections. Here is how you can take care of your cat during this period:
- Try to stay at home along with your pets. Prevent them from coming in contact with any other stray animals that are unclean or might have infections.
- It’s always good to use a mask and sanitize your hands before and after touching your pets.
- Avoid sneezing or coughing in front of your pet as the water droplets increase the risk of contamination.
- Pay special attention to your pet’s hygiene. Keep your cats’ furs or hairs trimmed and clean to avoid any kind of virus, bacterial or fungal infection. Don’t let them roam around freely outside. If they go, then sanitize them immediately after they are back.
- If you’re infected with COVID-19 symptoms, then it’s better not to come in contact with your pet, as they can get infected from you, or they can become the medium for the virus to get spread. In case you are suspected of COVID-19 and home-quarantined, you can leave the pets to any wellness centers across the country. Ensure you do proper research before you drop them. Do not bring them home unless you are completely cured.
- If your cat shows symptoms like respiratory problems, breathing disorder, fever, pneumonia, nasal disorder, etc., rush towards your veterinarian. Vaccinate your cat it needed, ask your veterinarian about any further precautions that you need to take for your loved kitty.
- As per the research of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), there is no proof that animals can spread this pandemic disease. So as per the guidelines of the Hong-Kong Animal-Welfare Authority, you should not abandon your pets in any circumstance. If any infections are found, take care of your pet for a better cure and healthy life.
We hope that this article has helped in clearing your doubts against whether your cats can catch Coronavirus or not. There is no need to panic. Just treat the pet cats the same as before. You don’t have to quarantine them unless you are positive about the symptoms. There is no proven evidence of the spreading of COVID-19 from cats. Therefore, keep them safe as they can be a victim too. Always provide them with healthy food and avoid giving unhygienic meat. That’s the way you can prevent the cats from the pandemic COVID-19.