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When your cat catches the coronavirus

As if you didn’t already have enough to worry about, now we find out that your cat can be infected with the novel coronavirus. Being the owner of three of them myself, I’m already wondering how you could possibly convince the little buggers to wear a mask. But since the news is out there and has apparently been verified in multiple cases, I suppose we’d better prepare to deal with it. And just my luck, the first infected cats were diagnosed in my home state of New York. (Washington Times)

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in companion animals in the United States, federal officials said Wednesday.

The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said…

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets” or to rush to test them en masse, said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”

My first thought upon hearing this was to wonder who’s been using up COVID-19 test kits on cats when we supposedly don’t have enough for all the people who need them. But I suppose it makes sense if there’s any chance of this being another transmission method.

There were already lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo that tested positive for the virus, but it hasn’t been fatal for any of them. There was a dog in Hong Kong that similarly tested positive so it’s not just restricted to felines. Assuming this bug originally came from bats or anteaters, it’s either one of the most adaptable viruses ever seen or it’s mutating extremely quickly.

The big question on everyone’s mind is probably whether or not a cat can infect someone else. That issue popped up on CNN this morning when Dr. Sanjay Gupta was doing his daily feature where he answers viewers’ questions. He gave the same answer that shows up in the linked article above. Gupta said that there is “no evidence” that the disease can pass from a cat to a human, but you should take precautions.

I’ll remind everyone yet again that I’m not a doctor and have no training in the medical field, but that really doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? If the virus can survive in humans and it can survive in cats, why wouldn’t transmission in both directions be automatically a possibility? One of the two cats in New York had an owner who tested positive for the virus before the pet began showing symptoms. The other was an indoor/outdoor cat, so they’re not sure where that one contracted it.

The virus is present in saliva, and cats are constantly licking their own fur to bathe themselves. Wouldn’t it make sense that the virus could survive for a while on the cat’s fur if it’s able to live for up to five days on a door handle? And if you’re petting the cat and then touch your face… well, I’m sure you get the idea. It seems like a bit of magical thinking for some of these medical experts to simply shrug off the idea that a cat or dog could pass the disease to a human being.

I suppose there’s not much to do about it at this point. Our cats are already permanently quarantined and if I tried putting a mask on our kitten he’s probably just scratch my face to ribbons anyway.