What is COVID-19?

According to the Center for Disease Control, COVID-19 is caused by a strain of coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. While there are many different strains of coronaviruses, most are not spread between animals and people. However, transmission between animals and people has occurred with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with COVID-19.

I am positive or presumed positive for COVID-19. How can I protect my cat? What if I have to go to the hospital?

While you hopefully won’t need it, it’s always a good idea to have a disaster preparedness plan for your pets.

  • Be sure to identify a family member in the household and outside of the household that can care for your cat so you have a plan if you quarantine at home or if you have to go to the hospital.Boarding facilities can also be helpful – have your veterinarian send you a copy of recent vaccine history so you have it ready.
  • Be sure to have extra food, prescriptions and a cat carrier in the event you and/or your cat need to relocate.
  • Keep an up to date list of medications with dosages, how you administer them and other care instructions for your cat. In case refills are needed make a list of where each medication comes from (like vet’s office with phone number, Wedgewood Pharmacy, CVS, etc)
  • Be sure your cat, especially if you have multiple cats or other pets in the house, each have a collar with proper identification
  • It’s a good time to check your cat’s microchip information and be sure the contact numbers are up to date

For more tips, read our blog on disaster preparedness: https://justcatsclinic.com/disaster-preparedness/

Can my cat get COVID-19?

The short answer is… it’s complicatedbut unlikely.

If you have or suspect you might have COVID-19, avoid contact with your household pets just like you would other people.Ideally have another family member care for your cat. If that’s not an option then be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after interactions with your cat. Avoid hugging/kissing them and sharing food while you are ill. Be sure to wear a facemask to help protect your cat.

Currently there is no evidence to support catching the virus from your household cat or that household pets play a role in the spread of the virus. Therefore, there is absolutely no need to consider rehoming or abandoning pets during the pandemic over disease concerns. If your household pet becomes ill and has been in contact with a COVID-19 patient, contact your veterinarian by phone immediately.

There has been research to show that under a laboratory setting cats and ferrets can contract the virus, but it’s important to remember that laboratory settings are not the same thing as a natural setting. In a laboratory setting, higher concentrations of the virus are directly put into the animal in a way that would not occur in day to day life.

As of April 2, the AVMA posted that the only animals to test positive for COVID-19 were two dogs and one cat in Hong Kong and a tiger in New York. None of these animals showed outward symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and all were in close contact with people that had tested positive. All other mentions of positive cases in domestic animals are inconclusive due to questions surrounding data collection and other possible causes of illness. The tiger in New York was exposed to an employee that tested positive and other cats in neighboring exhibits did show signs of respiratory illness but are expected to recover. Per the AVMA, there have been no reports of pets or livestock becoming ill with COVID-19 in the United States.

Can the virus be passed on pets’ coats?

A great question! If a member of your household is positive or presumed positive for COVID-19, they should avoid contact with your household pets. If contact is unavoidable, the sick family member should wear a mask and wash hands before and after interacting with the pet.

Smooth surfaces like doorknobs and countertops hold viruses better than porous materials like pet fur because the fibers absorb and trap the virus making it harder to transmit. Laboratory testing has shown that the coronavirus can last on smooth surfaces for up to 72 hours but the amount of virus decreases quickly over time reducing the risk for transmission. No specific research has been conducted on pet fur specifically, but it seems reasonable to assume the risk of picking up COVID-19 on cat fur would be relatively low because of how porous/fibrous it is. However, if you have a cat that’s indoor/outdoor, always wash your hands before and after handling. If someone in your household is positive or presumed positive for COVID-19, your cat should remain indoors just in case.

 How can I keep my house clean and safe for my cats?

 As you disinfect surfaces remember to keep your cat away from household cleaners. With many cleaners requiring several minutes of contact time to properly disinfect, be sure to prevent your cat from touching surfaces that are still wet with cleaner. Harsh chemicals can hurt paws or make your cat sick if they ingest or lick them.

With many veterinary practices limiting routine appointments, you may have to hold off on vaccine updates. If your cat is overdue for vaccinations, then they should remain inside or only go outside under supervision.

 How can I help my cat at home? I’m worried they’re stressed with all the changes.

While some cats might be excited to have their owners home all the time, it’s definitely a big change from their normal routine. Check out our tips on keeping your cat entertained and engaged in our blogs: https://justcatsclinic.com/beating-the-winter-blues/ and https://justcatsclinic.com/keeping-up-with-your-cat-a-guide-to-entertainment-for-the-high-energy-feline/

If you’re worried your cat is stressed or you notice any unusual behavior that concerns you, contact us for help.

 What can I do to help local rescues/shelters?

First and foremost, please don’t drop your cat off at the shelter unless you have no other choice. Our shelters are seeing more pet intakes and are struggling to stay afloat. Remember, there is no evidence suggesting that you can catch COVID-19 from your household pets. Use common sense and keep your pets safe and cared for at home. Practice good hygiene with frequent hand washing and if you become ill, take extra precautions and put your disaster plan into action.

Pet food pantries within our communities are experiencing a higher volume of requests for help from families that are struggling. Many organizations are asking people to buy pet food on Chewy or Amazon and have it directly shipped to pet food pantry/rescue. That way you can help from the safety and comfort of your own home!

You can also contact your favorite rescue and ask about fostering. With adoption events canceled, many rescue groups need fosters to take in available cats (or dogs) to keep them safe and happy while waiting to find their forever homes.

At Just Cats Clinic, we’re here to help you and your feline family to the best of our ability. The information reflected in this blog was current as of April 15, 2020 and we recognize that as we learn new information, the answers and recommendations above may change. We’ll do our best to keep you up to date, but for the latest information check out the American Veterinary Medical Association at https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html