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Coronavirus
Can cats become infected with Covid-19?
  1. Shao-Lun Zhai,
  2. Wen-Kang Wei,
  3. Dian-Hong Lv,
  4. Qi Zhai,
  5. Xiao-Hui Wen,
  6. Zhi-Hong Xu,
  7. Ming-Fei Sun,
  8. Ming Liao and
  9. Qin-Ling Chen, researchers
  1. Institute of Animal Health, Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Scientific Observation and Experiment Station of Veterinary Drugs and Diagnostic Techniques of Guangdong Province, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Key Laboratory of Animal Disease Prevention of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, 510640, China
  1. email: chenqinling{at}gdaas.cn

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Wen-Kang Wei and Qin-Ling Chen are also at the Agro-biological Gene Research Center, Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Since the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan city, China, it has been reported in over 200 other countries and caused a global pandemic.

Although some studies have suggested that bats and pangolins were potential hosts, the origin of SARS-CoV-2 remains unknown and the infection evidence of transmission from animals to people is not well established.1

On 28 February and 19 March 2020, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of Hong Kong released two statements that two dogs had tested positive to SARS-CoV-2.2 The two dogs had not had any relevant clinical signs, but the dog owners both had Covid-19. This suggested potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people to dogs.

On 31 March 2020, a case of a cat with SARS-CoV-2 was reported in Hong Kong, but the cat did not show any clinical signs of disease.3 Similar to the two earlier dog cases, the cat owner was confirmed with SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 was also recently found in vomit and faeces from a cat in Belgium.3 These cases suggested potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from people to cats.

A recent study from China revealed that SARS-CoV-2 could replicate efficiently in ferrets and cats, and was transmitted in cats via respiratory droplets.4 Another study has also shown that cats in Wuhan during the Covid-19 outbreak were infected with SARS-CoV-2.5 This suggested true infection of SARS-CoV-2 in cats.

On 13 March 2020, IDEXX Laboratories announced that it had seen no SARS-CoV-2-positive results in thousands of pet dogs and cats.6 Many of these specimens could have come from pets whose owners did not have Covid-19.

Based on the present knowledge, cats may be more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection than other pets. Whether cats with SARS-CoV-2 infection can transmit this to people needs to be further evaluated.

In the meantime, owners should keep a suitable distance from their cats to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from people to pets.

References

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