Cats are capable of infecting other cats with the coronavirus, a study by 12 researchers in the US and Japan determined. The scientists said cat-to-human COVID-19 transmission needs to be studied because cats may be a “silent intermediate host.”
The researchers infected three domestic cats with the coronavirus, a day later an uninfected cat was placed inside the cages of the three coronavirus-positive cats, they said in an open letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.
Two days later the researchers detected coronavirus infection in of the new cats, and five days later, all three of the new cats were infected.
None of the cats showed any symptoms, including abnormal temperature, substantial weight loss, or inflammation in the eye.
However, the researchers noted that the cats shed the virus from their noses for 5 days.
“With reports of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to domestic cats and to tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, coupled with our data showing the ease of transmission between domestic cats, there is a public health need to recognize and further investigate the potential chain of human–cat–human transmission,” the researchers said.
“Cats may be a silent intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2, because infected cats may not show any appreciable symptoms that might be recognized by their owners.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first case of an animal testing positive for the coronavirus in the United States was a tiger at a zoo in New York City. Several other lions and tigers at the zoo showed symptoms of COVID-19. Health officials believe the large cats contracted the virus from an infected zoo employee.
The CDC said: “Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”
It outlined coronavirus-precautionary guidelines for pet owners: “Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.”
Two pet cats in New York state were the first confirmed coronavirus cases among pets in the US, the AP reported on April 22.
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