Coronavirus in Cats (Overview)

Can a cat get a Coronavirus?

In short, yes, cats can get Coronavirus. But it’s not similar to the one that causes COVID-19 in human beings. The COVID-19 strain that spread the virus in humans is mild zoonotic and sometimes also responsible for spreading Coronavirus in cats. But it is still in the laboratory testing phase, not a proven fact. We will discuss this below.

What is COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

COVID-19 is the recently emerged infectious and contagious disease caused by the virus which belongs to the coronavirus family. SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent, which is mainly a respiratory pathogen. World Health Organization WHO first learned of this new virus from Wuhan’s cases, the People’s Republic of China, on Dec 31, 2019.

Despite all the information out there, confusion abounds. Here are some proven facts about Coronavirus in Cats.

Coronavirus in cats:

Cats can get coronavirus infection known as feline Coronavirus (FCoV). It’s widespread, fatal, and it’s highly contagious. Almost 80–92% of multicat houses are infected. It usually affects the gut.

Is feline Coronavirus is same as human Coronavirus?

No, it is not the same. FCoV is not similar to the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in humans (that virus is known as [SARS-CoV-2] Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2). At the same time, that virus has proved to be transmitted from bats to people. Yet, there is still no evidence that FCoV can be transmitted from cats to people. 

But cats do have the receptors in their respiratory tracts that SARS-CoV-2 binds to. In experimental conditions, cats could be infected with the original SARS virus and spread to other cats. They show negligible to 10 per cent affected results.

Experiment:

 In ISLAMABAD-Three, cats have infected with the COVID-19 virus, a similar strain that causes Coronavirus in humans. These cats spread the virus to three other cats in a laboratory, a study published in the Journal of Medicine in The New England by researchers/scientists working in Wisconsin, USA, and Tokyo, Japan.

The scientists emphasize that there is no proven evidence that the COVID-19 virus may transmit from cats to humans. Scientists state that it is more expected that humans are giving the virus to their pet cats rather than pet cats, causing humans to become sick. The team of scientists infected three cats with massive doses of the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans known as SARS-CoV-2, directly into both nostrils, both eyes, the trachea (windpipe), and in the mouth. The infected cats were allowed to live in pairs with uninfected cats, sharing the same food, water, space, and air. Within five to six days, the uninfected cats were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in their respective nasal swabs.

After their first to six positive tests, all cats continued to test positive for about five days, meaning the cats were likely to develop infection and were able to spread the COVID-19 virus to other cats for about five days. So, we may consider that the same infected cat may spread that virus into humans within the first five days of infection. It is not a fact yet. But care is essential for you and cats to be healthy.

You may also be interested in our article on Common Health Problems In Cats

How do cats acquire/get Feline Coronavirus?

Cats become infected with Feline CoV when they ingest the virus via oral track mostly. The virus attaches to the cells lining the small intestine and takes over the whole intestine. Feline Coronavirus uses the cells’ internal mechanisms to replicate itself and make identical copies. The replicated virus then sheds out in faeces/poo. Any other cat using the same litter tray/basket of toilet area gets some virus on fur/paws and, through licking or self-grooming, ingests the virus. And so the virus cycle continues.

A recent study found that SARS-CoV-2 infects the upper respiratory tracts of felines but is poorly transmissible between individuals. In cats, the virus replicated in the throat and nose and caused inflammatory pathology deeper in the respiratory tract, and airborne transmission did occur between pairs of cats

What are the common signs of Coronavirus in cats? 

Most infected cats show no symptoms. If they develop signs, we usually see mild, self-limiting diarrhoea (due to some small intestinal cells).

While FCoV does not cause severe disease, it can endure a genetic mutation in very few cats and become a very serious or fatal disease known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Why this process of mutation occurs is still unknown. 

The signs and symptoms of FIP include:

  • eye problems
  • failure to grow in kittens
  • intermittent fever
  • extreme lethargy
  • fluid build-up in the chest and abdomen
  • seizures
  • jaundice
  • difficulty in breathing

Although FCoV is extremely common after mutation, FIP is not usually seen. The enormous majority of cats that get FCoV will recover uneventfully.

A grey british shorthair cat laying down with a cone on his head and a green bow.

Can cats can spread FCoV and SARS-CoV-2 infection to other cats?

In the case of FCoV, the answer is Yes. It is highly contagious and spread from poo. But in the case of SARS-CoV-2 infection, based on recent studies, the answer is also Yes if we consider the result of the experiment mentioned above.

Some essential questions, queries, and facts about the COVID-19 virus in cats.

Q. If I get affected with COVID-19, could I transmit the virus to my cat?

A. We are still learning about this virus by conducting experiments, but it seems that it can be transmitted from people to animals in crucial situations. If you are sick with COVID-19, i.e., Coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO World Health Organization recommends that you limit your contact with people and animals until more information is known about the new COVID-19 pandemic.

If feasible, have another friend or family member take care of your pet while you’re sick. 

Q. Should I get my cat tested for COVID-19? 

A. No. Routine testing of cats or dogs for COVID-19 is NOT recommended yet. We are still in the initial learning phase about this virus, and there is no 100 per cent effective vaccine against it.

Q. Can cat carry the COVID-19 virus on their fur or skin?

A. Although we know certain fungi and bacteria can be carried on fur and hair, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can spread to people from the coat, skin, or hair of cats.

Q. Are cats from a shelter house/multicat houses safe to adopt?

A. Based on the minimal and minute information available about the covid-19 virus up till today, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be very low. 

A recent study by Foley JE, Poland A, and Carlson J suggests that affected cats with coronavirus shed the virus in their stools/fecal samples. The high frequency of shedding was associated with age and cattery of origin, but not with sex or concurrent disease. Stress associated with parturition and lactation did not induce coronavirus shedding in queens.

Q. Can I get COVID-19 from my cat or other animals?

A. A small number of cats worldwide have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with a person affected with COVID-19.

Until we learn more about how the virus affects the feline family, treat your pet cats as members of the human family to protect them from infection. That means:

  • Do not allow your cats to interact with people or other animals outside the home.
  • Whenever possible, keep cats indoors to avoid talking to other animals or people.
  • Avoid cat/dog parks or public places where large numbers of people and pets gather.

If your cat gets sick or you have any concerns about your cat’s health, talk to your veterinarian.

Is there a treatment for Coronavirus in Cats?

There is no specific treatment for FCoV or SARS-CoV-2 in cats.

Most cases go unnoticed, and the cat recovers if his/her immune system is robust, and he/she is on a balanced diet.

What to do if you own Cats in Coronavirus Pandemic:

  • Keep cats inside houses as much as you can. Do not let them wander freely outside.
  • Avoid public gathering or places where a large number of pets or people visit.
  • Do not ever put a mask on cats. Masks could harm your cat.

Do not bathe or wipe your cat with chemical alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, disinfectants, or other products, such as counter-cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, or other industrial/surface cleaners.

Talk to your vet-doc​ if you have questions about suitable products for cleaning or bathing your cats. The cleaning product we use around the house is

Rochelle

Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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