Coronavirus and Your Cat: What You Should Know

The recent detection of coronavirus in Nadia, a Malaysian tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has ignited concerns about how COVID-19 pertains to the rest of the animal world—specifically our friends, domestic cats.

Although Nadia is a very different animal from the one curled up on your sofa, her diagnosis reinforces the fact that plenty of mystery remains about how pets may contract COVID-19, and what steps humans need to take concerning their cats and dogs during this crisis. While a lot is still unknown or being learned in real-time, there are a few facts and ideas that can be shared about coronavirus and your cat.

House cats have tested positive for COVID-19.

To be precise, two of them: one in Belgium and the other in Hong Kong. Both were pets of people who had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, and had strains of the virus as found in stool samples. However:

COVID-19 is probably not very easy for cats to get.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says: “It appears that dogs and cats are not readily infected with SARS-CoV-2, we have little to no evidence that they become ill, and no evidence that those that may be naturally infected spread SARS-CoV-2 to other pets or people.” Other scientific research has indicated that cats are susceptible to the coronavirus, but the experiments were conducted with artificially high doses of COVID-19 that don’t occur in normal interactions with pets.

There’s no evidence that cats can spread COVID-19 to people.

Multiple science, veterinary and other experts confirm that, at present, the chances of humans contracting the coronavirus from household pets, including cats, are so infinitesimally small as to be non-existent. If you’re healthy there’s no reason to stop interacting with your cat as you normally do.

Your cat should be part of your quarantine plan.

During a pandemic, over-protection never makes matters worse. If you’re complying with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, it’s a good idea to keep your cat inside with you, to the extent that he or she is happy indoors. There’s a risk that viruses can remain on your cat’s fur—making them “fomites,” or objects that carry infections—and although experts still consider the chances of that kind of transmission remote, it’s fair to be overly conscious about it.

Keep up advanced hygiene with your cat.

You’re already washing your hands frequently in these troubled times, so make a point to do so after every interaction you and your cat have. The AVMA also recommends extra cleaning of your cat’s food and water bowls, bed, toys, and surfaces they frequently lie on.

Take extra precautions with your cat if you’re ill with COVID-19.

If you’ve contracted the coronavirus, use the same common-sense safeguards you’d use with other people if you have a cat: Stay inside, wear a mask, limit or eliminate contact with your cat, and keep them indoors with you.