Confusion over domestic cats during coronavirus crisis

OPINION: On reading news media headlines there are two fundamental areas of cat caretaking which are affected by the coronavirus crisis, namely whether they can get the disease and whether they should be confined.

Confused. Image: PoC.

The information and advice on both these issues is vague and unconvincing. The news media latch onto reports of cats including tigers getting the disease creating a degree of fear among cat guardians but in truth the science is scant.

As I recall there have been just two examples of domestic cats getting the disease in non-laboratory situations one of which is in Belgium. Scientists in China said that domestic cats can get the disease and spread it among themselves but (1) can you trust a study conducted in China? and (2) the study was not peer reviewed. Definitely unconvincing.

And the Bronx Zoo tigers who had symptoms of Covid-19 caused consternation. But that is it. Of the hundreds of millions of domestic cats on the planet we have two reported real life cases and even those are dubious because the symptoms were mild or the cats were asymptomatic.

But on the back of this the British Veterinary Association say we should keep cats inside if we have symptoms of the virus even though there is no science to say that cats can spread it. Well that’s what the ‘experts’ say. The concept is that if a person has the virus they can give it to their cat either in the conventional way or by depositing the virus onto their cat’s fur when they pet them.

I read the cat news media and there is no coherent, well directed, stated policy on how to care for domestic cats during this pandemic. The more the experts add to the narrative the more muddy the guidance gets.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) are unhelpful. Can we trust them? They say that cats cannot be infected but that is wrong because you can’t make such black-and-white statements. When the WHO open their mouths they make matters worse.

As they say, it is more about fear. We need to calm down a bit and carry on as normal until something much more positive comes to light. The last thing we want to happen is for cat guardians to become nervous about their cats and to abandon them. There have been some stories of cat abandonment. The Express online newspaper reports of abandoned pets particularly dogs.

It is also important to state that in many countries (and states in the US) the infection rate ‘curve’ is flattening which indicates that the infection rates are falling below 1. This means that one person infects less than one person on average which in turn means that the spread is gradually fading. Bearing that in mind and that no steps have been taken with respect to pets, there is no need to change our routines regarding cat and dog caretaking.

P.S. The truth of the matter is that the so called experts don’t have the answers. This is a novel situation and they are feeling their way forward. Politicians rely on them. I am not sure that’s wise.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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