Can my cat give me coronavirus? Should I stop hugging my cat?

8 April 2020, 11:44

Should I keep my cat indoors during the Covid-19 pandemic
Should I keep my cat indoors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

As we spend increased time in our homes due to the coronavirus pandemic cats owners are in contact with their pets for longer hours, but should we be keeping them inside as well?

The link between cats and coronavirus is somewhat blurred, and there has been no confirmed case of a domestic cat in the UK contracting the virus.

Cats Protection and the British Veterinary Association both say there is is currently "no evidence" that pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners".

A study at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China, however, found cats are "highly susceptible to Covid-19" and may be able to transfer it to other cats through respiratory droplets.

As a precaution owners should ensure to wash their hands regularly in case the virus can live on their pets fur.

It has also been theorised that Covid-19 could potentially live on a cats' fur for a short time, which a person may pick up.

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If you are self-isolating it is recommended your cat stays inside
If you are self-isolating it is recommended your cat stays inside. Picture: PA

Can my cat get coronavirus?

There has still been no confirmed case of a domestic cat being diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK.

A recent report in Belgium said that a cat owned by a woman with coronavirus developed symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties and a type of coronavirus was detected in the cat’s faeces and vomit.

Subsequent tests by vets at the University of Liège showed the animal was infected with coronavirus, making it the first possible case of human-to-cat transmission.

In New York, a tiger in the Bronx Zoo was confirmed to have coronavirus after developing a dry cough.

A further six tigers and lions are also said to be symptomatic.

Should I keep my cat indoors during the pandemic?

There is currently no need for you to keep your pet indoors if all the humans in your household are healthy.

However, the British Veterinary Association have recommended that if you or anyone else is in your household has symptoms or a confirmed case, then your cat should be kept indoors where possible.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos added the cat should be stopped going outside "only if the cat is happy to be kept indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors due to stress-related medical reasons."

Only take your cat to the vet if it is neccesary
Only take your cat to the vet if it is neccesary. Picture: PA

Should I stop petting my cat?

It is recommended by Cats Protection to think of ways to interact with cat which limit coming into contact with cat fur or saliva.

You can do this by using cat toys such as a fishing rod toy with feathers which allow you to interact with your pet without coming into close contact with them.

Of course it is not possible to avoid touching them at all times, so just be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after touching them or any of their toys.

The BVA says: “It is also the case that animals can act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs.

"That’s why our main advice for pet owners continues to be to practise good hand hygiene."

Can I take my cat to the vet?

Currently, cats can only be taken to a vet for emergency treatment.

You should first call your vet to see if your pet needs to see them, and only travel there if specifically instructed to.

If you are self-isolating you will not be able to go to the vet with your cat for emergency treatment, and may need to arrange for someone to pick them up to make the journey.

Can I stroke my neighbour's cats?

As there is currently so little known about how long the virus may live on the fur of a cat, people have been advised against touching cats that are not theirs.

If do come into contact with one, wash your hands.

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