How do I know if my cat has Covid?

This page is in two parts. The first part was written and published on January 14, 2022. An update was needed because Covid is an evolving story. Also, the Omicron variant has different symptoms. The second part was written in July 16, 2020. That was at a time when people were learning about Covid. That section of the page can more or less be ignored unless you’re interested. I am not a veterinarian. I read the news and study a wide range of articles including scientific articles about domestic cats and their health. That is the sum total of my sources of knowledge on the health of domestic cats.

Cat alleviates the unease of getting vaccinated against Covid in Manila, the capital of the Philippines
Cat alleviates the unease of getting vaccinated against Covid in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Picture: Facebook.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

How do I know if my cat is Covid-January 2022

We are in the era of the Covid Omicron variant. A lot of news media outlets have clearly stated that this variant is milder than the Delta and earlier variants. They state that the symptoms are somewhat like a common cold. In fact, some doctors are struggling to tell the difference. Symptoms in cats will be similar (often milder) to symptoms in people if they contract the Omicron variant of the Covid virus. It seems that the domestic cat’s immune system is better at fighting Covid. And at present, the dominant variant is the Omicron. So, I believe we can make a presumption that the symptoms in your cat if they get Covid as at the above date will be the those of a cat cold; something like the symptoms they would have if they were suffering from the herpesvirus or the calicivirus.

If your cat has these symptoms, you should take them to your veterinarian for a blood test to check for antibodies to check whether they been exposed to the Omicron variant of the Covid virus. I think it’s about as simple as that. Lashings of common sense are required but you can’t bypass taking your cat to your local veterinarian to check for Covid or to check whether they have the herpesvirus for instance.

Testing cats for Covid-19 in Texas
Testing cats for Covid-19 in Texas. Photo: Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

And if the result is positive then more common sense is required namely that you keep calm and keep your cat isolated from the general cat population and other people in the home. This is one of the challenging aspects of this because ideally your cat should then be isolated from people for five days. The general agreement among specialists is that domestic cats rarely contract Covid. And on many occasions, you will read reports which state that cats rarely spread the disease to people. In fact, at one stage the experts were constantly saying that there was no evidence that it happened.

However, this is a zoonotic disease which can spread between animals and people, in both directions. Therefore, it can spread from cats to people. However, the Omicron variant is mild. About 90% of the UK population is double vaccinated. A sizeable percentage have had the booster. There is little chance of serious illness from this variant.

Veterinarians have stated that cats resolve the illness themselves without intervention. That’s the normal outcome. The method is to simply keep calm and play the situation out and it will terminate on his own. That’s my interpretation.

A pet vaccination is being developed. In Russia they have one they say. We may expect a cat and dog vaccination against Covid in the future. At the moment it is a low priority issue.

Second part-written July 16, 2020

See a vet and in addition my advice is that, if you want to do something, you could check your cat’s temperature and confirm that he or she has a persistent cough (see link below). She may also have a reduced appetite. The three combined may – and I stress may – indicate a Covid-19 infection but it also needs to be stressed very strongly that the current evidence informs us that this infection is extremely rare in domestic cats, as far the experts know. Therefore, the human symptoms of Covid-19 namely a persistent cough, a temperature and a loss of sense of smell and taste may not be caused by the Covid-19 virus if present in a cat. A veterinarian must be involved to diagnose accurately. Don’t do anything until a vet has seen your cat, please.

Taking mouth and nose swabs from tigers at Miami Zoo to test for Covid-19
Taking mouth and nose swabs from tigers at Miami Zoo to test for Covid-19. Screenshot.

Tigers Bronx Zoo, NYC

Not very long ago there was a report of tigers becoming infected with Covid 19 at Bronx Zoo. The tigers reportedly exhibited the classic symptoms of Covid-19. However, this wasn’t clear from the reports and in any case the symptoms, as I understand it, were relatively mild. Therefore, we can’t look for symptoms in cats due to Covid-19 which are similar to those in humans. Therefore, if a cat owner suspects that their cat may have Covid-19 then they should seek advice from their veterinarian as soon as possible who will do a test. The Bronx Zoo tigers were tested and the photographs on this page show how it was done. You can see it is very similar to how it is done for humans.

Taking mouth and nose swabs from tigers at Miami Zoo to test for Covid-19
Taking mouth and nose swabs from tigers at Miami Zoo to test for Covid-19. Screenshot.

Believed rarity of Covid-19 infections in cats

It has to be added that there have been exceptionally few cases of domestic cats contracting Covid-19 as far as the scientists and vets are aware (but they aren’t testing cats) and in those cases, as I recall, the symptoms were very mild. In addition, as I also recall, there have been no scientifically proven and confirmed examples of domestic cats passing the disease to humans. This is notwithstanding that humans can pass it to their cats. This is how the tigers at Bronx zoo contracted the disease, it is believed.

Recap

To recap, if you have suspicions about your cat being ill with Covid-19 you should discuss it with your veterinarian. Your cat might have a cough which is quite rare. There are various causes of a cough in cats (see link below). Your veterinarian is likely to diagnose one of the other causes rather than Covid-19. You cannot ask your cat whether they have lost their sense of smell and taste. However, a symptom might be a loss of appetite because we know that domestic cats rely tremendously upon their sense of smell to like or dislike food that is placed before them.

Take temperature

You can take your cat’s temperature which I think is quite a useful test to do at home. This in fact may be the most useful diagnostic tool that a cat owner can conduct at home before consulting with a veterinarian. Fortunately, I have a page on that task on my website which you can access by clicking on the following link.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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