NEWS AND COMMENT: There is a rather startling news media story circulating on the Internet at the moment stating that “more than 350,000 pet cats” have been infected by Covid in Britain. And I think that story should carry with it a warning as I will do here. The warning is this: PLEASE DON’T DO ANYTHING SILLY AND HARM YOUR CAT!
The point that I’m making is that people should not respond to this sort of news in a reactive way and get rid of their cat or harm their them or chuck them out of a window or something silly like that. Please just settle down and think about it for a bit.
Study: 3.2% of cats infected
The information comes from a study in Glasgow conducted by virologists and veterinarians from the University of Glasgow. They analysed swabs from 2,209 cats. These were patients and veterinarians in the UK between April 2020 and February 2022.
The researchers say that these cat companions represented the domestic cat population in Britain. They found that 3.2% of the swab samples were positive for Covid antibodies. That means that the cats had been exposed to Covid and had the virus in them and their bodies had created antibodies to fight the virus. In short, they had been infected.
There was talk about 18 months ago or more of dogs and cats becoming a reservoir for Covid by which the scientists meant that once Covid was disappearing gradually it may remain in animals which could prolong the pandemic.
Original Covid still around
It should also be noted, I think, that Covid is still around. We tend to forget that. In Britain, on my understanding, about 70% of cases of Covid are the Omicron variant. This variant produces relatively mild symptoms which are not that the similar to the common cold. However, the original variant is still present in my view.
Off sick in UK
In Britain, there is an abnormal number of people off sick at the moment. This is contributing to a lack of manpower to fuel businesses to help produce economic growth in the country. Perhaps this is at least partly due to the lingering effects of Covid such as long Covid and new infections. There is also an element, I believe, of laziness engendered by the long lockdowns during two years of Covid when people got used to a generous allowance of 80% of their salary for doing nothing at home! And now we have millions working from home. Is this as productive? You can blame the government for that.
To return to this research project. The researchers say that there are about 11 million pet cats in the UK and if 3.2% of them had or have Covid that represents 352,000 cats having Covid.
Transmission from cat to person?
So, the big question is, can these cats give Covid to their owners? Covid is zoonotic and therefore it can be transmitted between animals and people and vice versa. On the downside, on my reading of this situation, there have been very few infections of people by their pets. This may be because cats are very good at dealing with Covid.
When they are infected, the infection doesn’t last long. Their symptoms are mild. They don’t sneeze all over the place and shed vapour particles containing the virus into the air where they can be ingested by their owner. However, we don’t know enough about the health consequences of Covid on pet cats. There may be some long-term health issues such as myocarditis.
However, my understanding is that I don’t think that there is a great danger of getting Covid from your pet cat, but the possibility is there. And we need to know more. There has been a lack of research on this.
In fact, the researchers say that they believe more than 3.2% of the pet cat population in Britain has or had Covid because they tested for a specific form of antibodies. They suggest that if there tested for other antibodies, they might have found more cases.
They also feel that when the virus jumps between species it might mutate. We need to understand this better.
The study author is Grace Tyson, a PhD student at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. It has not been peer reviewed I am told.
Below are some more articles on Covid.