TORONTO – The novel coronavirus is well documented in large and small cats around the world and now a UK study shows evidence of human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in two cases.
The two cats came from different households and had different degrees of disease. Both cats had owners who developed COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, when human testing was less consistent.
The study, published in Veterinary Record, a peer-reviewed veterinary journal, analyzed swabs from cats for routine testing for common feline viruses, including feline herpes virus. Through testing, they were able to identify two cats that had the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and testing the genomes found it to be seen in a similar way to virus circulation in humans.
The owners of both cats had shown symptoms of COVID-19 before their cats got sick, according to the study.
One of the cats with SARS-CoV-2 was a 4 month old Ragdoll kitten. She presented with severe respiratory illness and eventually had to be put to sleep. The second cat was a 6 year old Siamese cat who presented with pink eyes and a stuffy nose. Symptoms remained mild and later recovered.
The study emphasized that there is no evidence of cat-to-human transmission and that dogs, cats and pets are not involved in COVID-19 infections in humans. However, researchers say more studies need to be done to confirm that pets cannot transmit the virus between animals or back to humans.
“Currently, animal-to-human transmission poses a relatively low public health risk in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high. However, as human cases decrease, the prospect of animal transmission becomes increasingly important as a potential source for the reintroduction of SARS-CoV-2 in humans, ”said Professor Margaret Hosie of the Center for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow and lead author of the study. said in a press release.
Prior to this study, there were reports of domestic cats in several countries testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 after their owners were diagnosed with COVID-19, including two in Montreal. There have also been cases where the virus appeared naturally in cats and dogs.
Lions and tigers in zoos have also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.