I am afraid this is bad news for pet owners. Searching the Internet today there’s lots of news items about cats spreading coronavirus. It’s gradually leaking out on the Internet that companion animals play a part in this pandemic. I had worried about this. It’s been slow coming, but I was surprised to see the news this morning.
For a while now, the experts have said that you’ve got to wash your hands after you pet your cat. I thought nobody did that. Now you can’t kiss your cat. The Mail Online refer to a new lab experiment which says that cats can spread coronavirus to other felines without them having any symptoms.
They took the virus from people and infected three cats with it. Each cat was put with another cat that didn’t have the infection. Within five days the virus was found in all three of the cats exposed to it. None of the cats showed symptoms of the virus.
They said that there was no sneezing or coughing and there was no high body temperature. The cats did not lose weight. Cat owners wouldn’t know the difference between a healthy cat and the cat infected with coronavirus.
The researchers said more work needs to be done. The results came out on Wednesday. It’s being downplayed. The American Veterinary Medical Association downplayed it by saying that laboratories don’t always reflect what happens in real life.
Commonsense hygiene rules should be applied they now say. This includes not kissing your cat and keeping surfaces in the house clean. What they’re saying is that cats might shed the disease on to surfaces. But they tell us that cats don’t sneeze or cough and therefore they are not going to spread the disease in water droplets are they?
I think that’s an important point. The problem though is that they lick themselves when they groom themselves and then you pet them and kiss them and I think that is what the experts are worried about.
I think the research was carried out by American and Japanese scientists at the University of Tokyo. They say that domestic cats “may be a silent intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2, because infected cats may not show any appreciable symptoms that might be recognised by their owners”.
The really important thing to remember is that at the moment there is no evidence that infected cats pass the virus to people but the scientists say that that possibility is still there. In America, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind us that the risk is low from cats that they can spread the disease to people. However, we are learning about it and they say “it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations”. More research is needed.
Comment: I think you will find more news coming out of the Internet about this topic over the coming weeks and months. I also think it could change the relationship between us and our companion cats. It’s very unfortunate and I’m quite concerned. The virus may be with us for a very long time. It could be years. There’s no certainty that a vaccination can be created which is effective. This is partly because the virus appears to be mutating. I read somewhere that it has mutated 33 times already. Although people shouldn’t be concerned and people shouldn’t do anything differently at the moment. I am as concerned about cat welfare as I am about cats being infected with it by other cats.
There’s a page on this website about whether you should change your mind about letting your cat go outside because of Covid 19. You shouldn’t at the moment.