MONTREAL – Two Montreal cats are the first cats to be confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 on the island.
Researchers at the University of Montreal’s Veterinary Department made the discovery after a study started in January.
“They were most likely infected by their owners who had confirmed infection with COVID,” said lead researcher Cecile Aenishaenslin.
The study was started to analyze the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in cats living with a pet owner who was infected with the novel coronavirus.
In collaboration with health authorities, cats were recruited from around 30 different households in the greater Montreal area.
The aim of the study is to estimate the proportion of cats infected with COVID-19 in households where at least one person has contracted the virus and to “determine whether these infections are rare or common occurrences in cats”.
The study also looked at the characteristics of COVID-19 infection in cats and the factors that could affect the risk of infection for the animals.
“Both cats are in good health, they didn’t need any treatment,” said Aenishaenslin. “We still know little about COVID infections in cats, but in most cases it does not seem to cause severe clinical manifestations.”
Aenishaenslin added that there are no reported cases of human infection from their cat and those cats that test positive “had a low level of virus in their samples”.
Researchers can’t rule out the possibility of cat-to-human transmission, Aenishaenslin said, but they believe the risk is small.
“There’s no need to worry about pet owners,” she said.
Health Canada reminds pet owners who test positive for COVID-19 to avoid:
Let pets lick you
Cuddle or kiss
Share food with them
Let her sit on your lap
Let her sleep in your bed
In addition, it is recommended that you always wear a mask around your pet and keep your pet away from people and animals outside the household.