Can I give Covid-19 to my cat?

This is a pure science question. The best information that I have seen on this is on the Science website. And to be honest their answer at the date of this post is that we don’t know for sure if people cannot give Covid-19 to their cats or dogs. Update: since writing this there have been developments, one of the most notable being the infection of captive tigers (and lions?) at the Bronx Zoo by zookeepers. One female tiger had the classic Covid-19 symptoms including a dry cough. This example would seem to confirm that humans can give Covid-19 to a cat if we treat wild cats the same as domestic cats in terms of the zoonosis of this virus.

WHO advice on Covid-19
WHO advice on Covid-19 currently available (16 March 2020).
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

There is a lot about this virus that the scientists understand but there is also quite a bit that they don’t. When asked, the experts will say that there is no evidence that people can give the virus to companion animals. Clearly this does not preclude the possibility that evidence might be available in the future because we are still learning.

Therefore they will say that out of ‘an abundance of caution’ cat and dog guardians should take precautions. Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said

We strongly advise that mammalian pet animals including dogs and cats from households with….infected persons should be put under quarantine….to safeguard public and animal health.

So the cats and dogs should be quarantined if their owner has the virus. I am not sure how you do that. I suppose someone else has to look after the animal for the duration that the owner is ill and the animal is returned when the owner tests negative. My guess is that a lot of people will ignore that advice. This is a major problem for the authorities. How committed are people to do their bit to squash the virus. The government can’t enforce their diktats because it is impractical.

Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia who spoke with Science said that people infected with the virus should ‘limit contact with their pets’. They hint of the possibility of transmission from human to animal which tells us about their uncertainty.

If it is found that companion animals can get Covid-19 from people they will have to quarantined if they become infected. The question would be, where? It is suggested that they’d be kept at home in a room. But that would be extremely difficult to manage for any length of time. It certainly would be for me and my cat as he is used to going outside every day for a few hours. He’d go nuts if confined to a room in my home. In fact, I think it would be unworkable. But we’ll cross that bridge when it arrives.

However, the workability or not of government issued rules on how we live during the Covid-19 outbreak is vital in ensuring that they are followed. The bottom line is that people will have to comply voluntarily and willingly.

To recap, the current conclusion is that at the moment there is no science that suggests that cats and dogs can get Covid-19 from people. UPDATE: Since writing this I have discovered that a cat was infected by their owner in Belgium. This seems to be a conclusive diagnosis. The owner got the disease and passed it onto their cat. The cat developed symptoms of Covid-19: breathing difficulties, vomiting and diarrhea. Researchers found the virus in feces we are told.


Incidentally, I heard on the radio that once your immune system defeats the virus you are inoculated from it. I am not sure for how long that protection lasts. You need to check that too.

P.S. My neighbour who has 10 cats (sigh) bought a large supply of cat food today incase she has to self-isolate. There is that issue to prepare for. There is also the issue of making sure someone can take over if you have to go into hospital. Although in the UK they don’t admit you if you have the disease or they are reluctant to. You get treated at home with oxygen if it is bad.


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