Cats can be infected with coronavirus, but it is not yet clear that they infect humans

Cats can be infected with coronavirus, but it is not yet clear that they infect humans

Cats (but not dogs) seem like they could finally catch coronavirus . However, before we panic, it should be noted that it does not appear that cats can infect humans, but other cats.

This is what a study by the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute suggests, which also points out that chickens, pigs and ducks are unlikely to contract the virus.

Low viral load

The reason that there is no direct evidence that cats can infect humans is that infected felines do not secrete enough coronavirus, according to virologist Linda Saif of Wooster State University (Ohio).

The team, led by virologist Bu Zhigao , injected samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the noses of five domestic cats. When two of the animals were euthanized six days later, the researchers found viral RNA, as well as infectious virus particles, in their upper respiratory tract.

The other three infected cats were caged alongside uninfected felines. The team later detected viral RNA in one of these exposed cats, suggesting that it contracted the virus through droplets expelled by the infected cats, or perhaps otherwise. All four infected cats also produced antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 . However, the infected cats showed no symptoms of illness.

The results suggest that cats should be considered in the effort to control COVID-19, but that they are not a major factor in the spread of the disease.

Information is still scarce: we are facing a new disease and the study is, for the moment, a preprint (they have not yet been published in an academic journal nor have they been peer-reviewed). So the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with COVID-19 limit contact with their pets, including avoiding petting, licking and sharing food .

The study authors also found that ferrets are highly susceptible to infection with the COVID-19 coronavirus , suggesting that it makes the animals a suitable model for testing potential vaccines and medications.