03 Apr Ask a Vet: Can the COVID-19 Virus Be Transmitted to Cats?
The answers in this article were contributed by esteemed Principal Veterinary Surgeon of Amber Cat Vet, Dr. Brian Loon
[Updated: 11 April 2020. Further Reading: Can Your Pet Get COVID-19? Study Reveals Risks for Cats and Dogs]
Ever since the COVID-19 virus hit our shores, we understand that there are many worried cat parents who are concerned not just about how the virus might affect them and their health, but also that of their beloved felines. As such, we’ve once again partnered with Amber Cat Vet to answer some of your questions relating to the COVID-19 virus, and some precautionary measures that you may take in order to keep your cats safe.
About a week ago, we asked our followers on Instagram to leave us any questions they might have so that we may relay them to Dr. Loon from Amber Vet. Here are his responses:
1. If I have a Stay-Home Notice, am I allowed to have my cat with me for company?
If you are not positive for COVID-19, it is ok to have your cat at home with you, unless government regulations change.
2. Can the COVID-19 virus be transmitted to cats? If yes, what are the symptoms?
Two cats have tested positive for COVID-19 in Belgium and Hong Kong as of 31 March 2020, but these cats did not show any clinical signs of the illness and there was no evidence that they were able to infect others. Pets are not generally thought to infect humans with COVID-19, and in the unlikely event that any pet did get infected, it is most likely because a human in the household or in close contact with the pet was infected and transmitted it to the cat, and that infected human is much more likely to infect other humans than an infected pet.
3. How do I know if a kitten is ill?
In terms of general illness in any kitten or cat, common signs to look out for include lethargy, reduction in appetite or water intake (sometimes subtle), soft stools/diarrhoea, vomiting, discharge from nose or eyes, red/squinty eyes, coughing, sneezing or breathing difficulties. Kittens may be more severely affected with illnesses compared to adult cats due to their immature immune systems, so prompt veterinary attention must be sought if a kitten is unwell for any reason.
4. Should I stay away from my cat if I’m down with cold-like symptoms?
To err on the side of caution, any human in the household who is unwell and may have COVID-19 or other respiratory infectious diseases should avoid contact with pets at home. While animals are not generally known to get infected with COVID-19 and transmit the virus to others, it is theoretically possible that they can act as fomites (like inanimate objects in an infected person’s household) to carry the virus particles on their body and fur, which can then be a source of infection to another person.
5. If my cat goes out and rubs himself on the ground and lie down, do I need to bathe him when he’s home?
As mentioned above, with the possibility of animals acting as fomites, cats should be kept at home and indoors and not allowed to public areas during this time. If a cat went outdoors, it is wise to bathe the cat upon immediate return home with a general cat shampoo to reduce the risk of contaminating the home.
6. Is it still safe to bring my cat to the vet during this time?
It is generally safe to bring your cat to the vet during this time. However, as we are practicing social distancing now, if your cat’s visit to the vet is not urgent, you may discuss the suitability of postponing your appointment with your veterinary clinic. This is especially important if you or anyone in the same household as your cat is unwell, as even if your cat is brought to the vet without the unwell person stepping into the vet clinic premises, your cat may potentially act as a fomite to infect others including vet clinic staff members! We stay at work to take care of animal health and welfare during this time, so please stay at home to keep all safe!