New Chinese Study Finds Cats Can Get Coronavirus And Give It To Each Other

The virus cannot be spread from pet to human, but infected pet owners should take precautions.

A person pets a cat in the pop-up shop "Cat Cafe."
Andrew Burton / Getty Images

The virus cannot be spread from pet to human, but infected pet owners should take precautions.

A new study in China found that cats can contract the novel coronavirus from humans, according to The Guardian. Harbin Veterinary Research Institute found that cats are at high risk of contracting the virus. The small animals also seem to have the ability to give the virus to other cats through respiratory droplets. The report from the study was shared on bioRxiv on Wednesday, April 1.

The veterinary institute team conducted lab experiments that involved five cats that were given a high dose of the novel coronavirus. Three of the inoculated animals were placed in cages next to cats that had not been exposed to the virus. One of the newly exposed cats contracted coronavirus. The same results were found when the experiment was duplicated with a second group of cats. The findings indicate that the animals are likely infecting one another through respiratory droplets.

The study has not been peer-reviewed yet, though experts have stated the results were credible. Whether or not cats can act as transmitting vessels to humans has not been confirmed or denied. If the study proves to be successful, the information gleaned from it could lend insight into how animals can act as hosts for coronavirus without becoming diseased. Findings could also explain how animal management could contribute to controlling the coronavirus pandemic.

“People should take usual precautions of hand washing when handling their pets, and avoid overly intimate contact, especially if sick with Covid. It is important to add that this says nothing about how the virus coming out of a cat may or may not be infectious to humans,” said Eric Fèvre, chair of veterinary infectious diseases at the University of Liverpool.

The study was released after a recent case of a pet cat in Belgium with a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus surfaced. The pet owner had apparently contracted the virus. After the pet owner showed symptoms over the course of a week, the cat began displaying difficulty breathing. The pet was also throwing up and had diarrhea. Once the pet cat was tested by vets at the University of Liège, results confirmed the animal’s case of the novel coronavirus.

Lately, ferrets have been used in vaccine trials for current strains of coronavirus. It was found that ferrets are also susceptible to the highly contagious pathogen. Other animals like dogs, pigs and chickens do not seem to be able to contract the virus. The American Kennel Club has reported that dogs can contract some strains of coronavirus but not the novel coronavirus that is currently spreading across the globe. The loyal companions cannot contract it from humans either.