We all thought COVID was bad enough when we were told only people could get it. When it turned out our pets could get it too, it was just one more misery to add to the list. But for all that, there’s a small glimmer of good news. According to the latest reports, our feline friends might be able to catch COVID but they don’t suffer anywhere near the same terrible effects from it as we do. Neither do they take quite so long to recover from it. Granted, it’s not earth-shattering news to some folks, but for those pet owners who’ve spent the past 10 months fretting every time their kitten gets within coughing distance of another human or pet, it’s likely to come as a blessed relief.
COVID and Cats
Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we were told animals couldn’t catch COVID. But then, more and more animals started to test positively for the disease. Almost overnight, we had to stop keeping our worries solely for our two-legged nearest and dearest and begin applying them to our four-legged friends as well. But were our worries misplaced? According to a team of scientists from Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LLU), they may well have been. After becoming intrigued by how multiple felines in the country had displayed several antibodies of Coronavirus (which suggests that they’d been infected in the past), yet not a single one had ever tested positive for the disease itself, the researchers set about discovering the truth about felines and COVID. The results are illuminating.
As jpost.com reports, felines are the pet of choice in Latvia – as of today, the country has Europe’s second-highest number of cat owners per capita. As result, the researchers had no shortage of participants for their study. They began by selecting a test group of 130 felines. Some were from shelters while others were from homes where someone in the house had tested positively for COVID. While some of the animals were shown to carry antibodies associated with the infection, not a single one tested positive. That suggests that while felines are indeed capable of catching the virus, they’re also more than capable of very quickly overcoming and fighting it. Even in instances where a cat displays symptoms of the virus, findings suggest that those symptoms are only evident for around 2 to 3 days.
Good news for cats, and even better news for us. For those pet owners concerned that cats could either become gravely ill or even transmit Coronavirus to people, the latest findings should provide plenty of peace of mind. “Cats are likely to spread Coronavirus very briefly because even in situations where the association with a positive person has been very close and cats show clinical signs, we have failed to detect the virus in samples,” one of the researchers, Kaspars Kovalenko of the Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies Veterinary Medicine Faculty, says. This is despite the fact that some of the test subjects have displayed antibodies.
If the conclusions of the study are good (cats recover from COVID in less than three days… who said 2020 was all bad?), they’re also not fully explainable. That felines are capable of fighting off COVID quickly seems conclusive. But exactly WHY they recover so quickly remains unknown. Whether or not the explanation could have wider implications with regards to our own dealings with COVID, no one yet knows. But scientists are continuing to investigate in a bid to find out.
The Importance of Being a Cat
Cats are by no means the only animal species capable of catching COVID. So far, dogs seem pretty immune. But pigs, cattle, ferrets, tree shrews, and (as Denmark recently learned to its cost) minks, are all susceptible. So, what makes our feline friends so interesting? Why study the feline response to COVID and not the porcine one? Simply put- proximity. Very few of us share our home with a tree shrew. Even fewer of us share it with a pig. But cats? Well, cats are everywhere. And that’s precisely what makes them so interesting. “Cats and humans have a very close connection,” Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies’ Dr. Gundega Murniece explains. “They are members of our home. And they are a connection to a household with a foreign environment.” Simply put, cats have a connection to us that tree shrews, pigs, et all don’t. They share our homes, our routines, our beds… everything. And it’s precisely that connection that makes them so worthy of study.
Can A Cat Pass COVID to Humans?
So far, the evidence seems pretty conclusive. A cat might be able to catch COVID, but if they do, it’s almost over before it starts. But no matter how brief the period, should we be worried? For them, probably not. Other than a mild sniff and a sneeze, COVID doesn’t seem to throw our feline friends off their game even slightly. But no matter how brief a time they experience the symptoms, can they pass on the illness? Yes and no. While infected kitties can pass on COVID to other cats, there have been no instances of cat-human transmission to date. As per vet.cornell.edu, there’s currently no evidence whatsoever to suggest that COVID -19 can be transmitted between felines and humans. There’s therefore no cause to do anything that could endanger the welfare of your cat (turning them over to a shelter, etc.) even if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. If they do catch the disease, it’s very likely that they’ll recover with zero negative effects in less time than it would take you to shake off a common cold. Even during the recovery period, there’s no suggestion that they could infect you, regardless of how many times they sneeze in your face.
Play It Safe
While there’s nothing to suggest a pet can infect a person with COVID, there is evidence to suggest that COVID can be passed from people to cats. And as with most things COVID-related, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that nothing is ever really known for sure. Almost a year down the line from when it all started, we’re still playing it by ear to some extent… which may suggest it’s better to play it safe than sorry. If you’re diagnosed with COVID, the CDC recommends that if it’s possible, you should quarantine yourself away from both people and animals. If you have a friend or family member that can take care of your pet, so much the better. If you don’t, refrain from letting them lick or breathe into your face, and remember to maintain flawless hygiene before and after any interaction or petting session.