Updated: Jul 31
Recently we’ve seen some stories in the media about cats contracting the COVID-19 virus.
A cat in Belgium tested positive for the disease on March 24, while earlier in April a tiger in Bronx Zoo and two pet cats in New York also tested positive.
Chinese scientists have also performed experiments that have confirmed it is possible for COVID-19 to travel from cat to cat.
These reports and results conclude that it is possible for the COVID-19 virus to enter a cat’s respiratory tract.
It is also possible for a cat infected with COVID-19 to pass it to another cat. However, despite these headline grabbers, the real news is:
Your cat has only an extremely small chance of contracting COVID-19, and Your cat will not pass COVID-19 to you.
While media reports are quick to leap on and broadcast sensationalist headlines, they rarely take the time to look deeper into the science behind the lede.
For example, both the cat in Belgium and the cats in New York that tested positive all came from homes where their owner was infected by COVID-19, meaning they had prolonged exposure (over days) to an infected human before showing signs of the virus.
The Tiger at Bronx Zoo tested positive to COVID-19, and up to 8 other cats at the zoo were suspected of being infected (but not tested). However, the zookeeper who looked after this tiger and the other big cats throughout the periods of viral incubation and sickness has not shown any signs of contracting the virus from the cats.
Finally, the Chinese experiment to discover if cats could infect each other with the COVID-19 virus was performed under laboratory conditions designed to, as much as possible, ensure that the virus could be transferred. The point being that if it couldn’t transfer between the cats under ideal conditions then that vector could be ruled out.
The fact that the virus was transferred between cats under ideal laboratory conditions does not mean it is easily transferred between cats outside of the laboratory under normal home conditions.
So, despite what you are seeing in some of the more sensationalist media, while it is possible for cats to contract COVID-19, it is extremely rare, with only around a dozen cases reported from a worldwide pandemic.
Further to that, while it is possible that COVID may transfer between cats, this has only been proved under ideal laboratory conditions, and is far less likely to occur during normal feline household life.
Finally, in the extremely rare cases where cats carry the COVID-19 virus there are no known instances from any health authority, in any country affected by the COVID pandemic, of cats infecting humans.
There’s a lot of information about this virus circulating, and not all of it is reliable. We aim to cut through the noise to provide you with the accurate information that you need.
The official statement from the Australian Veterinary Association’s Animal Health Committee that guides our current actions is below, and if and when their advice changes we will act accordingly.
In the meantime, If you have any questions about COVID-19 and your pet, please don’t hesitate to send us a message and we’ll do our best to give you an answer.
KEY POINTS TO TAKE AWAY
There is currently no evidence you can get COVID-19 from your pet.
Keep your pets with you in your family unit.
Plan for the care of your pets in case you need to go to hospital
Continue to practice good hand hygiene before and after handling your pet, their food and their food and water bowls.
Review advice from your veterinary clinic before you visit. Follow their instructions to keep your family and veterinary staff safe from COVID-19.
Policy statement on COVID-19 diagnostic testing and surveillance in animals Animal Health Committee 22 April.
“The World Organisation for Animal Health advises that currently there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. The current spread of COVID-19 is driven by human to human transmission. There have been no reports of the virus in domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.
AHC is aware that commercial entities have developed tests for SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Diagnostic testing and surveillance in Australian animals for COVID-19 is only recommended on the advice of human and animal health authorities. If testing is required, it should be undertaken at the CSIRO Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (the former Australian Animal Health Laboratory).
Animal owners/handlers should continue to implement good hygiene and farm biosecurity practices where animals are kept, including washing their hands before and after contact with animals.
People who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid or minimise close contact with animals as a precaution.
This policy statement will be reviewed and updated as further information comes to hand.”