Can domestic cats transmit Covid?

This is a question which comes up over and over again and it is interesting that the main scientific bodies are ambivalent about the answer. For example, the CDC in the USA are very cautious in answering the question. In essence, they say that animals might transmit Covid to people but this is a developing situation and they aren’t sure. They also say that if animals do transmit Covid to people then it is very rare. Their advice applies to domestic cats and dogs and other animals.

I’m surprised that the experts are ambivalent about it because Covid is a zoonotic disease which means that it can be transmitted from people to animals and vice versa. That’s science. We know that Covid has been transmitted to animals because there have been a number of zoo cases in which big cats such as tigers and lions have contracted the disease from their zookeepers. And there have been some domestic cats getting the disease from their owners.

Also, 17 million minks were slaughtered in Denmark not long ago because the authorities decided that they were spreading the disease to workers (the minks had got the disease from workers too!). All the mink were gassed en masse. Shocking. They decided to wipe out the entire mink business at a stroke and at an enormous cost financially and in the amount of terror suffered by the animals. It was, indeed, shocking but it helps us to answer the question in the title about whether animals transmit the disease to people. As the disease can transmit from human to animal, we automatically have to conclude that it can transmit the other way.

Millions of mink were gassed because the Danish authorities were fearful that they'd spread the disease to people
Millions of mink were gassed because the Danish authorities were fearful that they’d spread the disease to people. Image: Mads Claus Rasmussen / AFP – Getty Images file.
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Therefore, the answer to the question in the title is yes and we shouldn’t shilly-shally around that point. I suspect that the CDC is being cautious because they don’t want people to take extreme measures which is exactly correct. There is a great fear in the authorities that the citizens of their country will overreact and start killing animals without due cause.

This happened early on in the pandemic when some Chinese citizens living in China threw their cats and dogs out of the windows of high-rise buildings. It was shocking and completely unjustified and cruel. It is incredibly important that citizens do nothing in any way to harm their companion animals or indeed any other animal for that matter at this stage because there’s little evidence animals are exacerbating the problem of the pandemic.

Study needed to prove beyond doubt that domestic cats don't or can't spread Covid-19 to people
Study needed to prove beyond doubt that domestic cats don’t or can’t spread Covid-19 to people. Illustration: PoC from images in public domain.

However, we have to also remember that the disease was probably started when the virus was in a bat or a pangolin and that animal was slaughtered in a wet market in China, splashing body fluids into the mouth of the person who did the slaughtering. That person contracted the disease and then spread it to other people. That’s the theory although it may have been caused by the bio-lab in Wuhan which has also been much discussed on the Internet.

But the point that the disease started with an animal-to-human transmission clearly confirms that Covid transmits from animal to personal and as cats are animals, they are therefore possible transmitters and also possible reservoir for the disease. That’s all there is to say about the matter but I would like to see a bit of common sense and realism in answering the question about domestic animals. We have to face up to the reality of the facts.

Certainly, an issue here in discussing the sort of topic is that there is a lot of fear among billions of people even today after the pandemic is largely being controlled. Fear among people generates irrational behaviour which can lead to harm bearing in mind the often lowly status of companion animals in many parts of the world.

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