COVID-19 is the newly emerging infectious and contagious disease caused by the virus that belongs to the coronavirus family. SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent of this deadly virus, which is primarily a respiratory pathogen. The World Health Organization (WHO) first learned about this new virus through Wuhan’s cases, the People’s Republic of China, on December 31, 2019.
Can a Cat Get a Coronavirus?
Yes, cats can 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). It is widespread and highly contagious. Almost 85-92% of multicat houses are infected. It usually affects the intestine.
Is the feline Coronavirus the same as the human Coronavirus?
No, it’s not the same as we discussed above. FCoV is very different from the Coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 in humans. SARS-CoV-2is transmitted from bats to people. However, there is still no evidence that FCoV can be transmitted from cats to people.
But cats have the receptors in their airways that SARS-CoV-2 binds 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 Acquire/Contract the Coronavirus?
Felines become infected with Feline CoV when they ingest the virus primarily by mouth. This FCoV virus attaches itself to the cells that line the small intestine and takes over. The feline Coronavirus uses the internal mechanisms of cells to replicate and make identical copies. The replicated virus is then shed in the feces/poop. Any other cat that uses the same litter tray/basket as the toilet area will contract a virus on its hair/paws and, by licking or grooming itself, ingests the virus. And so the virus cycle continues.
What are the Prominent Signs of Coronavirus in Cats?
Most infected cats have no symptoms if felines develop any only mild signs, self-limited diarrhea (due to destruction of some small intestine lining).
While the Feline virus does not cause severe disease, it can support a genetic mutation in very few cats and develop into a very serious and often fatal condition known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Why this mutation process occurs is still unknown.
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.
Can Cats Transmit FCoV and SARS-CoV-2 Infection to Other Cats?
Yes, cats can transmit FCoV. It is highly pathogenic and contagious and is transmitted through feces. But in the case of SARS-CoV-2 relying on recent studies, the answer is complicated. On experimentation, it transmits to some cats, not to all.
Some FAQ about Cats and Coronavirus
Q: If I am affected by COVID-19, could I pass the virus to my cat?
A: We are still learning about this lethal virus through experiments, but it appears that it can be transmitted from humans to pets and other animals in some situations. Suppose you are sick with COVID-19, Coronavirus. In that case, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the WHO World Health Organization recommend that you limit your direct contact with your animals, pets, or other humans until more information is known about the new COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, it would help avoid contact with your cats, including petting, snuggling and lying down, licking or kissing them, or sharing food. If possible, ask another friend or family member to take care of your pet while sick.
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.