Should I keep my cat indoors because of Covid-19?

Jackson Galaxy believes that all domestic cats should be kept indoors at all times. The coronavirus makes no difference to him and he is a respected cat behaviourist in the US. If you do let your cat go outside all the time, there is a slightly increased risk that your cat can get coronavirus. This is because they could meet someone who’s infected who handles them or coughs over them. Or meet an infected cat. Please read on.

Should I let my cat outside during Covid-19 pandemic? Illustration by PoC.

However, the chances of this happening must be very remote. Most domestic cats outside the home will keep more than the regulation 2 metres distance from a stranger. Domestic cats automatically tend to self-isolate because they are cautious of strangers. Sometimes outdoor cats fight but there is no evidence that cats give the disease to other cats in a fight.

Also at present the scientists are not completely sure how cats can become infected with this new coronavirus. They believe humans infect them in the same way they infect other humans. However, infected cats are incredibly rare based on tests and symptoms.

You can count the number of Covid-19 infected domestic cats on the fingers of one hand worldwide, as reported online. To be fair, the data is not conclusive. It is possible that more cats and dogs are infected than we realise. This certainly applies to people. It is believed that the true rate of infection of people is many times higher than tests have found. We should be skeptical about the information on world and country infection and death rates.

However, all things considered, when you realise the very low chances of an outdoor cat becoming infected, I don’t think Covid-19 makes any difference to your decision to keep your cat indoors or to let them out. The usual arguments apply. It is a debate about quality and quantity of life. A lot of people would rather their cat live a full and safer life indoors than allow them take the risk of dying an unnatural death which shortens their life outdoors. Depending on where the cat lives there are many potential dangers to outside cats.

The medics are more cautious than many cat owners. For example, they say that we should wash our hands the NHS way (20 seconds) after we handle our cats. This is to prevent possible cross contamination of the virus. But I feel sure that almost no one does it.

It is about perceived risk. If people don’t see a genuine risk of getting the disease from their companion animal or their pet giving them the disease they won’t act on advice. At the moment there is some, but little evidence that humans can give Covid-19 to cats and no evidence that cats can give it to humans. Therefore the pandemic has almost no impact on the day-to-day caretaking responsibilities, thoughts and actions of cat owners. It may change as more studies are carried out which are reported on news media websites.

These are personal beliefs. Each cat guardian will make their own decisions. I am not giving advice. I am answering the question based on what I have read about the disease in relation to domestic cats.

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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