A coronavirus is a virus of the subfamily Orthocoronavirinae of the family Coronaviridae. Said viruses are called thus because corona can mean either a halo or a crown in Latin, which is relevant because the virus particles have a fringe that can look like the solar corona. In humans, most coronaviruses will cause nothing but mild respiratory infections, but there are some forms such as SARS and MERS that can kill. However, it is important to note that there are coronaviruses that target other birds and mammals as well, which can lead to other kinds of infections. For instance, coronaviruses are known to cause diarrhea rather than respiratory infections in cows and pigs.
Can Cats Get the Coronavirus?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is something called feline coronavirus. Said virus comes in not one but two forms, with one being the feline enteric coronavirus and the other being the feline infectious peritonitis virus. The first is not particularly problematic. Unfortunately, when the first mutates into the second, the consequences are catastrophic. This is because feline infectious peritonitis has no known cure, meaning that the treatment for the disease tends to be limited to minimizing the suffering of the unfortunate cat.
Having said that, people aren’t interested in whether cats can be infected by coronaviruses so much as whether cats can be infected by a particular coronavirus in the present time. After all, the novel coronavirus has been dominating the news for a while now, meaning that it is perfectly natural for people to be concerned. Something that is particularly true for those who live in places with confirmed cases.
Unfortunately, the answer is that no one knows. This should be wholly unsurprising because the novel coronavirus came into existence in very recent times, with molecular clock approaches suggesting a date of origin in either early December of 2019 or a short while before that. As a result, while human-to-human transmission has been confirmed, there is still much that remains unknown about it.
Currently, the most that can be said about the novel coronavirus is that there are no known cases of pets being infected by it. As such, this means that there are no known cases of pets passing it to pet owners, meaning that it is rather premature for interested individuals to start panicking about such possibilities. Having said that, this isn’t saying that such a thing can’t happen, which is why it is important to continue listening to what the scientists report as they continue to look into the matter.
Can Cats Pass the Coronavirus to You?
In the case of the feline coronavirus, it isn’t much of a concern for human health because it doesn’t seem to be capable of infecting humans. However, it should be mentioned that it can stay active on contaminated surfaces, meaning that it is possible for cats to be infected by humans who have come into contact with it at some point.
As for the novel coronavirus, that remains unknown at this point in time. The interesting thing about viruses is that they are adapted for their particular circumstances. For example, feline coronavirus is adapted for felines. Likewise, human coronaviruses are adapted for humans. However, when species are similar enough, there is a higher chance of these viruses jumping from one species to another. Unfortunately, the ensuing consequences can be unpredictable. Sometimes, the new species will just shrug off the virus. Other times, the new species can be impacted to a much greater extent than the old species because adaptation is something that happens on the part of both parties. On top of this, it should be mentioned that viruses evolve at a much, much faster rate than most organisms, meaning that it is perfectly possible for an evolved strain to spread to a new species even though the original strain cannot manage the same.
In any case, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are many, many diseases that are believed to be zoonotic in nature, meaning that they can be traced to bacteria, viruses, and parasites that have managed to spread from an animal to humans. For example, HIV is believed to have a zoonotic origin, though it has undergone sufficient change that it now infects humans and only humans. Likewise, other zoonotic diseases range from ebola and leprosy to the bubonic plague. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means that more than one human infectious coronavirus has had animal origins as well. For example, SARS started out as a coronavirus that had jumped from palm civets to humans. Likewise, some people might remember MERS being called camel flu, but while camels might have played a part in its spread to humans, the coronavirus is believed to have come from bats instead.
As for the novel coronavirus, it is believed to have a zoonotic origin as well, though there is still much research that needs to be carried out before that can be confirmed to be the case. Basically, one of the main reasons that this is believed to be the case is because the first infections have been traced to a live animal and seafood market, which are places where humans come into contact with a wide range of animals and thus a wide range of pathogens that can be found on those animals. However, there are some people who have speculated about other potential origins, with the live animal and seafood market being the place where the novel coronavirus started spreading rather than the place where the novel coronavirus started out. No matter the exact situation, it is believed to have a bat origin, though this is something that will need to be confirmed.
Currently, there is no need for people to panic about their cats spreading the novel coronavirus to them. However, there are some things that they can do to help out with the situation. Some of this is pretty common-sensical. For example, people should be cleaning their hands with either an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water on a regular basis. Likewise, people should avoid contact with people who have either a cough or a fever. Besides this, interested individuals might also want to get the flu shot. It won’t protect them from the novel coronavirus, but it will protect them from the viruses that it is supposed to protect them from, thus reducing their chances of having to visit the hospital and thus freeing up hospital resouces for combating the novel coronavirus should it show up.