Critter Corner: Can Coronavirus Affect Pets?

Dear Angel,

I am the proud mom of three dogs, who are getting lots of attention with my husband and I working from home, and with the kids here too. They mostly stay in the house but enjoy long exercise walks around dinner time. We also have a gray outdoor cat, who visits each day. She’s not ours, but we love her as our own and care for her when our neighbor goes out of town. I am wondering— can pets get coronavirus and spread it to each other or to humans?

Thanks for your help!

Karen Forkatz-Endoggs

Dear Karen,

Cats can be infected with the coronavirus and can spread it to other cats, but dogs are not really susceptible to the infection, say researchers in China. The team at Harbin Veterinary Research Institute also concludes that chickens, pigs and ducks are not likely to catch the virus.

Scientists say that cat owners should not be alarmed just yet, however. The results are based on lab experiments in which a small number of animals were deliberately given high doses of the virus and do not represent real-life interactions between people and their pets, according to virologist Linda Saif of the Ohio State University in Wooster. The tests introduced samples of the coronavirus into the noses of five domestic cats. Six days later, the researchers found viral RNA as well as infectious virus particles, in their upper respiratory tracts.

Coronavirus Research is Conducted on Cats and Dogs

Three infected cats were put in cages next to uninfected felines. The team later detected viral RNA in one of these exposed cats, which suggests that it contracted the virus from droplets breathed out by the infected cats. All four of the infected cats also produced antibodies against coronavirus and none of the infected cats showed any symptoms of illness though. Surveillance for coronavirus in cats should be considered as part of efforts to eliminate COVID-19 in humans, the authors noted.

The authors also found that ferrets are highly susceptible to coronavirus infection. Dogs, however, were less susceptible to the virus. The researchers inoculated five young dogs with SARS-CoV-2 and found that two excreted viral RNA in their feces, but none contained infectious virus.

Have Pets? There is No Need to be Alarmed

There is no direct evidence that the infected cats secreted enough coronavirus to pass it on to people. So far, there have been just a few reports of pets being infected: a cat in Belgium and two dogs in Hong Kong. “Cats and dogs are in close contact with humans, and therefore it is important to understand their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 for COVID-19 control,” writes the authors of the study.

“Cats should be considered in the effort to control COVID-19, but that they’re not a major factor in the spread of the disease,” says Dirk Pfeiffer, an epidemiologist at the City University of Hong Kong. “The focus in the control of COVID-19 therefore undoubtedly needs to remain firmly on reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission.”

The pets at the Farr Law Firm are all just as hygienic as our owners who follow all CDC recommendations, so you have nothing to worry about if you visit us at the firm! Stay well and healthy!


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.