A new study finds that cats can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and may be able to pass it to other cats.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on Wednesday, May 13, the study found that felines can become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. And while they may be able to pass it other cats, the study did not conclude that it could be passed to humans.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Tokyo, the National Center for Global Health and Medicine and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan along with the University of Wisconsin in the USA, the study looked at three cats in a lab setting who were given SARS-CoV-2. The next day after the virus was given to the cats, a cat without SARS-CoV-2 was introduced to each of the cats to see if the virus would be transmitted between them by direct contact.
After taking swabs from all six cats, researchers found that within two days one of the previously uninfected cats was shedding the virus. Within six days, all of the cats were shedding virus, and continued to do so for up to six days. On a positive note, the virus was not lethal, and all of them recovered from it.
None of the cats showed any symptoms of the illness.
"That was a major finding for us -- the cats did not have symptoms," commented lead author Yoshihiro Kawaoka.
The findings are in line with a previous study by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which showed that cats, and also ferrets, could become infected with and potentially transmit the virus.
"It's something for people to keep in mind," says Peter Halfmann, who helped lead the study. "If they are quarantined in their house and are worried about passing COVID-19 to children and spouses, they should also worry about giving it to their animals."
The researchers add that humans are still the biggest risk to other humans in terms of transmission, not cats. In addition, there is no evidence that cats transmit the virus to humans and no documented cases of humans becoming ill with COVID-19 because of contact with cats.
With this in mind, report authors note that there are confirmed cases of cats becoming infected with the virus after contact with infected humans. So, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should avoid contact with cats.
The researchers also advise cat owners to keep their pets indoors, in order to limit the contact their cats have with other people and animals.
- With files from Relax News.