Keeping domestic cats indoors to stop spread of coronavirus is impractical and the risk very low

The benefit in minimising coronavrius spread by keeping cats indoors is outweighed by other potential health and practical issues. There is a lot of internet talk about keeping domestic cats indoors if the owner is infected with coronavirus or they think they are in order to help prevent the spread of the virus to others. The theory is that the virus will be deposited on the cat’s fur where it will be picked up by a stranger on their hands and then to their face. A tortuous route.

Low risk cats during Covid-19 pandemic

Low risk cats during Covid-19 pandemic. Collage: PoC. Images in public domain.

Theoretically the message makes sense but to carry it out is impractical and unenforceable. Measures to prevent the spread of the virus need to be practical. They must also fairly balance the risk against the difficulties of carrying out the task.

The risk of a domestic cat carrying the virus to others and giving it to them is very low indeed. How many cats wandering outside get stroked by strangers? Very few is the answer as most cats hide from strangers. Normally when a person sees a domestic cat in the pavement (sidewalk in the US) or in a public place they don’t automatically go over to stroke the cat. Some people do but the majority don’t. In the era of coronavirus lockdowns and a general fear there is little or no chance that a stranger will pet an unknown cat on the street.

Therefore the risk of a wandering domestic cat acting as a vector of the disease is, in my view, very low, so low as to make a law insisting that they are kept inside pointless.

Managing the disease is all about treating people as sensible and able to use common sense to minimise risk. There has to be cooperation from the citizens of nations because the laws can’t be enforced if everyone does not comply with them. In Sweden they did not enforce a lockdown. Life went on almost as normal with a large dose of common sense and social distancing. Swedes are very compliant and socially-minded but their infection rates and deaths are better than most. Austria has no lockdown. Once again their infection rates are no worse than most and probably better.

Keeping indoor/outdoor cats inside for weeks to protect against a very low risk of spreading the disease is impractical and fails to balance risk and workability. You could argue that the aggravation of keeping a cat indoors after a lifetime of going out is not worth the benefit. There could be scratches and bites from unhappy cats. The owner may have to see their GP where they might spread the disease. They may have to go to hospital because of an infected bite. This would clog up the hospital for what advantage?

There is currently no science which provides evidence that cats spread the virus to people. Domestic cat lockdowns are impractical and unreasonable.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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