Amid the global outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19, pet parents find themselves wondering if their furriest friends are at risk of catching the disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the short answer is no – your cat is safe from coronavirus. Their website states, “At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.”
Early reports out of China did suggest that a dog had tested “weak positive” for COVID-19 after nasal and oral swabs were taken. The dog had the showed some presence of the virus but was not presenting any symptoms of the disease. Despite that positive test, experts are adamant that pets cannot spread or transmit the disease.
However, that’s not to say that an infected human can’t touch or cough on a pet dog or cat, thereby spreading the virus—in the same way that they would spread it by touching a doorknob.
UPDATE: Recently, a 4-year-old Malayan Tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York became the first of her kind to test positive for COVID-19 after showing symptoms of the disease, including a decreased appetite and dry cough. Three other tigers and three lions were also showing symptoms but it’s not yet clear if they’ve been tested for the novel virus. They were all being cared for by someone who was an asymptomatic carrier of the coronavirus, according to a press release.
Proper measures are being taken to ensure the safety of both the cats and their caretakers. The cats are doing well and are all expected to fully recover. There remains no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people other than the initial event in the Wuhan market, and no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats.
So, if you are sick, avoid touching your cat without first washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, and always cough into your elbow or a disposable tissue to avoid the transfer of the virus to other people in the home via your pets.
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