Dear Ms. Kitty,
I saw where two cats in New York were diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus. My cats go outside under supervision. Can my cat catch the new coronavirus from another cat? Can I catch it from my cat, or give it to my cat?
Worried in Walsenburg
The COVID-19 coronavirus has certainly changed all our lives. While many cats have always practiced social distancing, initiating contact at their own pace, it turns out we may have something to learn from them. This level of avoiding other humans is new for most of us and can be a challenge.
We all know the virus can be transmitted through the air and on surfaces. Those surfaces can include your cat, just like they can include your clothes.
If you have–or suspect you have–this virus, a sneeze or touch can land it on your cat just like it can land on any surface in your home…including other humans.
If you have COVID-19
That’s why, if you are sick, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you practice social distancing with your cat just like you would with other humans.
Ask another person care to for your cat while you’re sick, like a family member or friend. If that’s not possible, wear a mask when handling him or her. Try to avoid petting, hugging, kissing and sharing food or beds with them until you’re well.
Please see our article, COVID-19: Who cares for my cat?, about planning ahead for this emergency, as well as exactly how to handle your cat if you become sick and need help.
Pets in the news
You may have heard about dogs and cats who have tested positive for COVID19 after their guardians got it. Two dogs in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus at first, then tested negative several days later as their bodies developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus. Neither dog had any symptoms and both lived with other dogs who tested negative.
The cat from Hong Kong also tested positive and has not shown any symptoms either. A second cat in Belgium also tested positive and apparently had upper respiratory symptoms. However, no data was given to rule out other forms of an upper respiratory infection and the cat recovered.
The most recent cases were two cats in separate locations in New York who tested positive. One cat’s guardian was positive but another cat in the household was negative. The other cat was indoor/outdoor and may have been exposed there or by a family member who was mildly symptomatic. Both are on their way to recovery.
Thousands of other dogs and cats have been tested in the US from specimens from all over the world. These are the only ones who have been shown to be positive for COVID-19.
About those NY big cats
One more case has been in the news, that of several big cats in the Bronx Zoo who tested positive. They think that 5 tigers and 4 lions got it from a zookeeper who was coming down with COVID-19 but did not know it at the time. They have upper respiratory symptoms and are all now recovering. The zoo was closed to the public two weeks before any symptoms started.
Don’t worry, but stay safe
What does all this mean? So far, it means your cat can’t get it and give it to you, but there may be a very small chance you can give it to him if you get it.
It hasn’t happened yet, but there may also be a small chance you can get it from a cat who is exposed to someone else with the virus, but only if you handle the cat immediately after they do, and then only without precautions.
We all need support during these trying times. Our pets are a huge source of comfort to us all. What would life be for most of us without a purring cat?
Unless someone in your home is actively sick with symptoms of COVID-19, there is no need to worry about getting COVID-19 from your cat.
Treat your cat (or dog!) like any other member of the family if you are sick. Practice good hygiene and social distancing, and your pets should be fine.
Sara Ferguson is the Director of Happy Cats Haven. Ask Ms Kitty is a free helpline offered by Happy Cats Haven and Colorado Cats Boarding, available here.