Do cats get coronavirus? SARS-CoV-2 in cats

Posted April 30, 2020 by Dr. Nikhita De Bernardis.

We hope that everyone is staying safe and healthy during these difficult times.  For those of you who are spending more time with your cats, we hope that you are getting to enjoy their company and everyone is adjusting well to new routines.  But in light of this current pandemic, people have been asking, “Do cats get coronavirus?”  There is quite a bit of information in the news about coronavirus and cats these days, and we would like to help clarify this information for you.

First, the facts: Do cats get coronavirus?

  • SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in people. Cats have a coronavirus of their own (FCoV) that is very different from the one that causes COVID-19. It is quite common, and most cats are exposed as kittens. FCoV typically causes gastrointestinal signs. It has been around for a long time, and there is no evidence that it can transmit to other species.
  • Regarding cats and the human coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, to date there have been four domestic cats testing positive in the whole world.
    • One cat in China, with no clinical signs and who was only tested because its owner tested positive.
    • One cat in Belgium had respiratory and gastrointestinal signs which resolved. This cat’s owner had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but there are some questions about this case. It’s not clear if other disease were ruled out first, and there are also questions about how the samples demonstrating the presence of the virus were collected and evaluated.
    • Two cats in separate areas of New York State with mild respiratory signs tested positive. One cat’s owner tested positive. The second cat may have been in contact with an asymptomatic or mildly ill family member, or with infected people outside of the home.
  • Two commercial veterinary labs in the United States tested thousands of samples from pets around the world. They want to validate a new test they have made for pets, and have no positive results. These specimens were all submitted from pets with respiratory illnesses.
  • A tiger and some other large cats at the Bronx zoo with respiratory signs tested positive. It is thought that they were infected by a then asymptomatic zookeeper.

What does this means for cat owners?

  • So far, it appears that it is possible, but not common, for cats to get the disease from humans.
  • There has been no evidence that they are able to pass it on to other cats or back to people.  Cats do not appear to get severely ill from it if they do get it.
  • If you are healthy, continue to practice good common sense when it comes to hygiene and your cats. Wash your hands before and after handling your cats, their food, and their waste.
  • Keep your cats as part of your “quaran-team”! Do not let them interact with people that you would not interact with (with the exception of us, your veterinary team – more on that below!).
  • If you test positive and are quarantined in your house, restrict contact with your cat the same as with the other people in the house. If you are solely responsible for the care of your cat, wear a face covering when doing so and vigilantly maintain good hygiene.

What A Cat Clinic can do to help:

  1. We have stepped-up our already stringent sanitation and personal protective equipment requirements in the clinic. This ensures that we are wearing protective equipment at all times, including masks, when handling your cats to keep everyone safe.
  2. Our doctors can only test cats if the state veterinarian and public health officials determine that it is necessary. The rules for requesting permission to test are quite stringent.  We can only submit a request to test if a cat is sick and has a link to a known human case. We also must first rule out other more common causes of the cat’s symptoms.
  3. Our staff is always here to help our clients and answer any questions you have!

We know it seems like every day there are more questions than answers. We hope this blog helps you to feel a little more informed today, so you can make educated decisions about maintaining the health of your families. For regularly updated information from a reputable source, please visit the American Veterinary Medical Society’s Coronavirus Updates page.