Last updated August 2022.
COVID-19 is an infectious and contagious disease caused by the virus that belongs to the coronavirus family. The virus is mainly a respiratory pathogen, which means it’ll likely cause symptoms like coughing, breathing, sore throat or a stuffy nose. The flu and the common cold are also part of the same group.
Although we know humans are affected by the Coronavirus, what about our cats? In short, yes cats can also get Coronavirus. But it is not similar to what COVID-19 causes in humans. The COVID-19 strain that spreads the virus in humans is mildly zoonotic and is sometimes responsible for spreading the Coronavirus in cats. But it is still in the initial testing phase.
Coronavirus in Cats
Cats can get a coronavirus infection known as feline Coronavirus (FCoV). Although cats suffering from the Feline coronavirus are mostly asymptomatic, it is widespread and highly contagious. Cats infected with the FCoV virus usually leave the virus behind in their feces, which can infect other cats in the same area It is estimated that 85-92% of multicat houses are infected. The coronavirus usually affects the intestine and if symptoms show, it’s usually in the form of mild diarrhea.
Although both diseases share the name coronavirus, the human coronavirus and the feline coronavirus are not the same disease.
But cats do have the receptors in their airways that the human coronavirus can bind itself to. Under experimental conditions, cats can become infected with the original SARS virus and spread to other cats. They show affected results from negligible to 10 percent.
How Do Cats actually get the virus?
Cats become infected with Feline CoV when they ingest the virus mostly through the mouth. This FCoV virus then attaches itself to the small intestine and uses the mechanisms of these cells to replicate and make copies. Then the cats just… Poop it out. Any other cat in the area (when they’re outside) or when they use the same litter box will ingest the virus if their paws come in contact with it. So yes, cats can transmit the feline coronavirus to other cats.
What are the some of the common symptoms ?
Most cats are asymptomatic, which means they carry no symptoms. At worst they might experience mild diarrhea.
Although the feline coronavirus does not cause severe disease, the virus can mutate and develop into a very serious and often fatal condition known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Why this mutation process occurs is still unknown.
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Signs and symptoms of FIP include:
- Eye problems
- Lack of growth in kittens
- Fluid buildup in the chest and abdomen
- Intermittent fever
- Extreme lethargy
- Difficulty breathing/Dyspnea
FIP is generally not expected in cats after FCoV, but rare cases may occur. The vast majority of cats that contract FCoV will recover without any gross lesions or signs.
Some FAQ about Cats and Coronavirus
Q: If I am affected by COVID-19, could I pass the virus to my cat?
A: There is a possibility you might transmit the coronavirus to your cat, based on limited evidence available. It is, however, extremely rare. Suppose you are sick with the coronavirus, then it is recommended that you treat it as you treat other people. Wash your hands, limit the cuddles, and do not share food with your pet. Better safe than sorry!
Q: Should I test my cat for COVID-19?
A: No. Routine testing of cats or dogs for COVID-19 is NOT yet recommended. Because there is no 100 percent effective test or vaccine is present against it.
Q: Can the cat carry the COVID-19 virus on its fur or skin?
A: Although we know that certain fungi and bacteria can be transmitted on the skin and hair, there is no complete evidence that this lethal COVID-19 virus can be transferred to people through the skin, fur, or coat of cats.
Q: Is it safe to adopt cats from a foster home?
A: Based on the minimal and detailed information available on the COVID-19 virus to date, the risk of animals transmitting COVID-19 to people is considered low.
How is Coronavirus Treated in Cats?
There is no specific/particular treatment for any virus in cats, including SARS-CoV-2 or FCoV. Most cases go unnoticed, and the cat recovers if its immune system is robust and follows a balanced diet.
What to do if you have cats in the coronavirus pandemic:
- Keep cats indoors as much as possible. Don’t let them roam freely outside.
- Avoid public gatherings or places where large numbers of pets or people visit.
- Never put a mask on cats. Masks can harm your cat.
Do not bathe or clean your cat with chemical alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, disinfectants, or other products, such as cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, or other industrial or surface cleaners. Talk to your veterinary doctor if you have questions about good outcomes for cleaning or bathing your cats in COVID-19. Cooper Pet Care’s vets are also here for all your questions and are here at your service. Schedule an instant video consultation with one of our qualified veterinarians right here, right now.