Categories: indoor outdoor cats

Keep cats indoors to prevent spread of coronavirus say vets


Lockdown for cats. Photo: Shutterstock.

The advice to keep cats indoor comes from British Veterinary Association (BVA), president Daniella Dos Santos. They are recommending the impossible. Please read the article to the end.

She says that when people hug or pet their cat they may pass on to their cat’s fur the coronavirus if that person is infected without knowing it because they are asymptomatic. That’s a completely reasonable observation and it may be happening as it is certain that many more people are or have been infected than the testing confirms. In testing of 18k citizens in Iceland where the population is around 350k, around 50% of people tested positive although the vast majority had no symptoms.

If the cat is allowed outside they may come into contact with surfaces or other people who may pet them. The cat would act as a vector – an intermediary – between two unrelated people in transmitting the disease. That’s the theory and I think it is more theory than actual.

What is the risk? How low is it? Is it practical to ask cat guardians to ‘avoid unnecessary contact with your pets’? What is unnecessary contact with pets? Is the risk from petting your cat greater than the risk of becoming ill if you can’t pet your cat?

At the end of the day any decision about human behaviour to minimise spreading it is down to risk. It is about he degree of risk and minimising and managing it. It is not black-and-white. Therefore to offer advice about keeping cats indoors when there is no evidence that cats can give the disease to people is poor advice in my view.

It is advice that will hardly be followed because in Britain 99% of cat owner let their cat outside. If they then try and keep them inside there may be problems with cat behaviour. You could well get an increase in cat scratches and infections as owners try and keep their cats in.

There are good arguments for keeping domestic cats inside i.e. to protect wildlife. And I’m not saying people should ignore the advice. I am saying I don’t think it is practical and I don’t think the risk element has been taken into account sufficiently.

Another expert has also got it wrong. In a recent paper, Dr Angel Almendros said that even when animals test positive they don’t become sick. That’s technically incorrect as tigers in Bronx Zoo got the disease and one of them at least, Nadia, had symptoms, namely, a cough.

It is assumed that the tigers got the disease from zoo workers who were infected, perhaps asymptomatically, when water droplets from them where breathed in by the cats. People can transmit Covid-19 to animals. This seems to have been established. Wild animals can transmit the disease to people. This also seems to have been established as the cause of the disease is a wild animal market.

Am I wrong? Am I being stupid? Tell me in a comment please. UPDATE: A lot of British cat owners agree with me because they have amended their advice. They say cats should be kept indoors if the owner is known to be infected (by test I presume as a lot of people have been infected but don’t know it). We have had that advice before. The BVA made a mistake as is backtracking.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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