Coronavirus and Cats: What Cat Owners Need to Know About

Even though millions of Americans are vaccinated for COVID-19, the virus, breakthrough cases, and outbreaks continue to dominate news headlines. Each day scientists and medical experts learn more about the coronavirus, including how it can affect your cat. Catster did some digging, and here’s the latest information you need to know.

Can Cats Get Covid-19?

Your cat can get COVID-19.

As of late July, a total of 97 cats in the United States have tested positive for the virus.

“It is extremely rare,” Veterinarian Lori Teller, with the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Catster.

In the United States, there have been more than 34-million cases of COVID-19 in people and 97 cases in cats, so statistically, the numbers are low.

Dr. Teller adds that none of the cats who tested positive for the virus died. “Most cases are asymptomatic, but some cats will show some mild either respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms,” she says. “So, they may have a little bit of sneezing, a sniffly nose, or maybe have nausea or loose stools.”

Can you give COVID-19 to your cat?

You can give COVID-19 to your cat.

All the cats who tested positive were exposed to a human who had COVID-19 and later noticed their cat seemed under the weather.

Cats must have close contact with an infected person who may have coughed or sneezed on the cat to contract the virus.

“The most likely way that cats get COVID is from a human in the household,” Dr. Teller says. “So, it could be that you or someone in the family has gotten COVID and you don’t feel well, and you snuggle with your cat because that helps you feel better. But then your cat catches COVID.”

Can you catch COVID-19 from your cat?

Unlikely.

It seems it’s more of a one-way street; people can give COVID-19 to their cats, but not the other way around.

“Cats do not appear to be participating in any significant spread of covid,” Dr. Teller says. “Viruses are interesting organisms, and it’s still something that we’re learning about, but cats are not primary hosts of COVID-19, so it’s just harder for them to spread it.”

Currently, the CDC is not recommending the routine testing of animals.

If you’re quarantined or sick, what precautions should you take with your cat?

The CDC does recommend if you’re exposed to the virus or have it, you should limit interaction with your pets, just like you would with people in your home.

The agency says if you’re symptomatic, “avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”

And Dr. Teller advises wearing a mask and gloves before handling your cat if you’re self-quarantined or sick. You can also have another person in your home, who is not sick, be the primary caregiver for the pet. Dr. Teller says you don’t need to send your pet away; just take precautions.

In case of an emergency, what food and supplies does my cat need?

The pandemic made us rethink life as we knew it, and experts say no matter if a disease outbreak shutters the entire world or a hurricane hits your town, you should always have an emergency stash of supplies for your pet. COVID-19 was a wake-up call.

The Red Cross and FEMA both recommend having a two-week supply of food, medications, cat litter, and all the supplies you need to care for your kitty.

But crisis response expert, Diane Vukovic, author of Disaster Preparedness for Women, suggests getting a month’s worth of stuff.

“The supply chain goes crazy during disasters, and you don’t want to have to fight with someone in the store,” Diane says. “Even though it’s unlikely the water supply will be disrupted, you should stockpile water too. Take the weight of your animal in pounds and divide it by eight. This is the amount of water they need per day in cups.”

What if I’m quarantined or get COVID-19, and my cat needs to go to the vet?

If you’re quarantined and it’s not an urgent appointment, call your vet, tell them what’s going on, and reschedule.

If you test positive for the virus, your local health department will be notified. Tell them you have a cat and ask for their advice if there is an emergency.

“If your cat needs urgent veterinary care and you’re under quarantine, you’ll need to loop in your public health officials so your cat can get veterinary care while you maintain your quarantine,” Dr. Teller says.

What we know about cats and the coronavirus

Dr. Teller says though research is ongoing, it appears pets play a minor role in COVID-19.  But what studies have proven is all the positive health benefits pets have on people, like improved mental health, stress reduction, and weight loss.

“We know so many people adopted pets during the pandemic, that was because they are so good for us,” Dr. Teller says. “Let’s continue, as we recover from the pandemic, recognizing the important role they play in our lives. Let’s not abandon them or rehome them because we fear our pets either getting COVID or spreading it to us.”

The USDA keeps a tally on its website of the number and types of animals that test positive for COVID-19.

For more information on this continually changing situation, bookmark the CDC’s website.

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