Coronavirus: Can my pet cat infect me with COVID-19?

A cat on the shoulder of its mask-wearing owner at a cat show in Vietnam. (File photo: Reuters)

Cats can catch coronavirus and are able to infect each other with it, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The study, published by the journal Science, concluded that cats were highly susceptible to the virus when scientists put it up their nose via respiratory drops. It also tested various other animals, finding that “ferrets and cats are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, dogs have low susceptibility, and livestock including pigs, chickens, and ducks are not susceptible to the virus.”

This latest study builds on reports that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City caught coronavirus, and earlier unconfirmed reports that two dogs in Hong Kong had become infected.

With the World Health Organization currently conducting further investigations into animals and coronavirus, here is the latest information for pet owners.

Read more: Tiger infected with coronavirus: Can animals, pets spread COVID-19?

Can animals spread coronavirus to humans?

There is currently no evidence that animals can spread coronavirus to people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“There isn’t a single case of a pet dog or cat infecting a human with Covid-19,” Dr Angel Almendros, from City University in Hong Kong, told BBC News.

“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets or livestock, can spread COVID-19 infection to people,” says the United Sates Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for veterinary services in the US.

A dog wearing a mask is seen at a main shopping area, in downtown Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 16, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)

A dog wearing a mask is seen at a main shopping area, in downtown Shanghai, China, as the country is hit by an outbreak of a new coronavirus, February 16, 2020. (File photo: Reuters)

But what about that bat?

There are indications that the COVID-19 outbreak originated when a coronavirus-infected horseshoe bat infected a human, probably via an intermediary species, in a wet-market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

However, experts are still unsure about the exact origins of the virus and may never know. A widely circulated video which suggested a woman eating a bat was the source of the virus has since been debunked as fake news.

“We do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person,” says the CDC website.

Read more: Containment has failed. What is next for coronavirus?

People wearing protective face masks shop at a chicken stall at a wet market in Shanghai on February 13, 2020.  (AFP)

People wearing protective face masks shop at a chicken stall at a wet market in Shanghai on February 13, 2020. (AFP)

Can humans spread coronavirus to animals?

Yes, according to the USDA, that concluded the tiger at the Bronx Zoo was infected by an employee at the zoo.

The USDA has therefore warned people with COVID-19 to avoid animals and pets.

However, there have been very few confirmed cases of humans spreading coronavirus to animals so far, suggesting it only occurs rarely.

Read more: Dog tests positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong: SCMP

What should I do if I have pets?

The CDC gives the following advice for pet owners on its website:
• Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
• Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
• Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.

Given there is no evidence that animals can spread the virus to humans, officials said that pet owners should not worry about their animals as a source of infection.

“It’s important to assure pet owners and animal owners that at this time there isn’t any evidence that they can spread the virus,” Dr. Jane Rooney, a veterinarian and a USDA official, told Bloomberg.

Read more: Coronavirus: Checklist to prepare for isolation and lockdown

What should I do if I think my animal has the virus?

The USDA advises anyone with a pet showing symptoms of illness to call their veterinary clinic and speak to a qualified professional. It notes that the vet should be informed if the animal was exposed to anyone sick with COVID-19.

If I have COVID-19, can I spend time with my pets?

The USDA recommends that people ill with COVID-19 avoid animals in case they transmit the illness to their pet.

“Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus,” it advises.

“When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”

If a sick person must be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after interacting, the organization added.

Read more: Surgical, cotton masks do not prevent coronavirus infection: Report

Will animals be tested more often now?

Currently, neither CDC nor the USDA recommends routine testing animals for the virus.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:57 - GMT 06:57
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