New study finds cats can spread Coronavirus to other cats without symptoms

Remember when we thought that Coronavirus was primarily a human-to-human threat? A recent study has revealed that may no longer be the case.  

In a federally-funded lab test at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, a group of researchers intentionally infected three cats with a strain of Coronavirus that was taken from a human patient. Then, each cat was housed with another cat that was without the virus. 

Within five days, all six cats tested positive for Coronavirus, though none of the cats – including those that were intentionally infected, displayed any symptoms of the virus. 

Does this mean our pets are at risk of catching and transmitting COVID-19?

Can cats transmit Coronavirus to humans?

Health experts were quick to downplay the possibility that cats can transmit the virus to humans, arguing that clinical tests may not accurately represent natural conditions. 

Instead, anyone who might be concerned should use “common sense hygiene”, said Coronavirus export Peter Halfmann. “Don’t kiss your pets and keep surfaces clean to cut the chances of picking up any virus an animal might shed,” he added. 

Halfmann did say that animal shelters could be at risk for spreading the virus if one of its pets gets infected. 

The results of the test, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest that the virus can be spread easily from cat to cat without displaying any of the symptoms of the virus, like coughing or sneezing, running a high temperature or losing weight rapidly. 

They looked like perfectly normal cats. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, no official evidence exists that suggests the Coronavirus can be easily spread from humans to their pets and back to humans, though the CDC admits COVID-19 originally came from an animal source. 

“Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low,” wrote the CDC on their web site. “We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.”

This lab test confirms that observation. 

The CDC recommends that pet owners keep their pets from interacting with people or other animals outside of the household (like at dog parks or while on a walk) and isolate any COVID-infected person from the pet. 

The University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine researches stressed that using proper hygiene during the virus outbreak, such as regularly washing your hands and wiping down surfaces with antibacterial cloths or cleaners, is the best way to avoid catching the virus. 

The lab test comes two weeks after a story of two cats in New York who became the first known pets in the United States to contract the virus, presumably from their owners.