Beth, a Catster.com author, wrote about this recently. It made me think as to whether it makes sense. During the coronavirus pandemic the idea is interesting but she did not touch on a point that I’d like to make.
We have been trained to wash our hands frequently to wash off the Cover-19 virus that we may have picked up from surfaces. Covid-19 is a hardy virus. Our hands touch the surfaces of many objects in day-to-day use at home and in public places. The virus can survive on these surfaces for days. Also fine droplets from coughing can stay airborne for several hours. These can come to rest on your clothes. You touch your clothes and pick up the virus and deposit it inside you when you rub your weary eyes or touch your mouth. We touch our faces up to 2,000 times a day I’m told!
Washing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds breaks this chain of transmission from one person to another. Although there is no evidence that domestic cats can transmit the disease to people in the same way that people spread it to others i.e. by coughing and sneezing, it must be at least feasible, although it is very unlikely, that a domestic cat could pick up the virus on their paws as a person can on their hands.
The sort of scenario I am thinking about is the one where domestic cats visit other homes. This is not uncommon. I have a feline visitor, myself. She comes for a sit down, to play with my cat and to eat a bit of food. What if her owner is infected with Covid-19? And what if their cat picks up the virus on their paws and then wanders over to my home where she deposits it on the floor or the carpet?
Because of the lockdown, I do Pilates at home in the morning. What if I pick up the virus on my hand and rub my eyes afterwards? A very unlikely chain of events but a possibility nonetheless. Another possibility for transmision is if your cat is stroked by a neighbour who has the infection. Your cat licks the area and her paws. The virus is deposited on her paws.
There is, therefore, an argument that you might consider cleaning your cat’s paws for the same reason that we clean our hands if you are the sort of person who likes to be very cautious or are particularly frightened of getting the virus.
Washing a cat’s paws is very hard because they resist. We all know it. I’d gently and quickly wipe them with a damp cloth. That’s probably about the best you can do provided the cloth is then cleaned. Alternatively a throwaway wipe purchased online might be better. Personally, I have no intention of washing my cat’s paws.
There are reports from two live domestic cat cases, captive wild cats, and a non-peer reviewed Chinese study that cats can get the disease. But there is nothing to support the notion that they can then give it to people. This is work in progress and I am concerned about it. People tend to panic and there are many who are genuinely scared of getting the virus. Fear can make people do things they would not normally do.