Our cats and us, coronavirus developments

Like most, I like to keep abreast of developments that are taking place in the coronavirus pandemic. It is changing all the time largely because we are learning about it. However, there is a quite a lot of misinformation on the Internet and speculation. I will therefore proceed carefully but I want to publish my thoughts about the latest developments.

Papille – a tortie cat infected with Covid-19 by her owners in France. Picture: Her owners via Reuters.

Covid 19 is our generation’s polio

The doctor, Professor Nick Hart, one of two who treated Boris Johnson Britain’s Prime Minister when he was at St Thomas’s Hospital suffering from Covid-19 believes that the disease will leave many survivors with long-term health problems. These include lung damage or fibrosis which is a scarring of the lungs leading to chronic breathlessness and a cough. It can occur in young healthy patients who had mild symptoms. Many people who went into intensive care did so with acute kidney injury and did not fully recover. They may end up on dialysis or needing kidney transplants. Thirdly, the virus can affect the heart causing inflammation which is known in medical terms as myocarditis. This can cause heart failure in people who are at risk. Fourthly there is the issue of mental health and possible PTSD because a long stay in intensive care can lead to this sort of mental health problem.

In short, the coronavirus crisis may be leaving people with long-term health problems which is something that has not been discussed widely. Indeed, it may affect Boris Johnson going forward during his term as prime minister which will may affect the performance of the government.

France – cat gets Covid-19

The first case of a domestic cat contracting the disease in France has been reported by Fox News. It looks certain that a nine-year-old cat, Papille, contracted the disease from her owners who both had it. Interestingly, the cat suffered from symptoms which were a mirror image of those suffered by her owners. These include, fatigue, coughing and bouts of lethargy. She couldn’t stand, said her owners, and barely lifted her head.

But the interesting part of the story is that an expert in France, Renaud Tissier, the science director at the Alfort National Vet School, confidently said that “human-to-animal transmission is not something that is impossible, but it is very rare. We have no cases of humans being affected by pets”.

How does he know? How many tests have been carried out on companion animals to see whether they have had the disease or are presently suffering from it with mild or no symptoms? Very few have been tested and therefore we cannot say with this certainty that humans are not being infected by pets. I don’t want to exacerbate anxieties but there needs to be reality and truth reported on the Internet. Also we don’t know how many cases there are cat and dog owners transmitting the disease to their companion animals for the simple reason, as mentioned, that it has not been studied in any detail.

There have been very rare cases of domestic cats reportedly contracting the disease but this is because they are rarely tested. Perhaps, like humans, there are many more cases of companion animals being infected asymptomatically. I would suggest that more testing is required of companion animals just to check. I would also caution people to do nothing other than what they’re normally doing with respect to their interaction with their companion animals.

I know people are anxious about the future and about coming out of lockdowns. They are frightened of contracting the disease as a result. But we all need to keep calm and realise that, at the end of the day, ending lockdown is about risk and reward. There is always a risk of being injured or, rarely, killed in every aspect of daily life. We can add coronavirus to the list of hazards. We will never live in a world which is 100% risk-free but I sense that some people want that or have forgotten this simple fact. The general risk across all groups of people of dying from Covid-19 is mid-range on the list of things that kill people.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a 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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