Cat Identified with COVID-19?


A Belgian woman from the Liège province has perhaps infected her cat with the coronavirus, as reported the FPS Public Health during the daily update COVID-19 press conference, according to the Brussels Times.

The veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat.  The cat’s signs were vomiting, diarrhea, and breathing issues. Researchers indicated they found the virus in the cat’s stool. The cat’s age or any other illnesses the cat may or not have been suffering are not known. It’s not known what the condition of that cat is now, if even the cat is still alive.

Worldwide, it has been highly exceptional for the virus to pass from human to animal. So far, there have been only three known cases where the pet has been infected by humans are known across the world, that’s two dogs and one cat. Or better put, somewhat likely one cat.

Both dogs infected were identified in Hong Kong, and neither dog became sick from COVID-19, though the older dog, a 17-year old Pomeranian did ultimately die; it’s thought that dog may have had underlying heart disease common to elderly small dogs.

Be Reassured

It’s not clear what kind of testing was done to discern the cat’s condition, and that matters. So, whether the test used was PCR (Polymerase chain reaction,  which can detect live or dead virus) or virus isolation (which only detects live virus), or if other samples were also tested. And this answer matters.

Belgian officials maintain that to date, there’s no demonstrable evidence that pets can pass COVID-19 to human, or to one another. This view is consistent with officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Hong Kong,well as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and World Small Animal Veterinary Association.

Anecdotally, we know that sadly thousands in Europe, the U.S. and Canada have been infected with COVID-19, and only reports regarding three companion animals.  Also, IDEXX, the diagnostic lab, has tested thousands of dogs/cats in U.S. without a single positive.

Still….Out of an Abundance of Caution

Still, just to be sure, according to AVMA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines if someone in your home is positive for COVID-19, if at all possible having another family member care for a pet is the prudent thing to do. Another idea is to offer the pet a “vacation” with a friend or neighbor (who should wipe the leash down after receiving a dog). Cats may not being so willing to re-home.

Because SARS is known to impact cats, it’s no surprise that ultimately there would be a cat identified with COVID-19. According to a recent study published in the Journal Virology, ferrets, cats, pigs and nonhuman primates contain largely favorable 2019-nCoV-contacting residues in their ACE2 receptor and hence may serve as animal models or intermediate hosts for 2019-nCoV. While this news is concerning, note that – so far – cats and ferrets are not a threat to give us COVID-19. Pigs are a concern and veterinarians are keeping watch, as no one wants COVID-19 in our food production animals.