The appearance of a coronavirus-infected tiger at the New York Bronx Zoo has set off the alarm. Could cats spread the pandemic? Experts are very clear in respect: to date there is no evidence that a cat, a dog or any pet can transmit the Covid-19 a person. However, humans could potentially transmit the new coronavirus to dogs, cats and ferrets, according to a technical scientific document from the Ministry of Health on the virus .
The report reaches this conclusion after learning about the cases of a cat in Belgium and two dogs in Hong Kong with respiratory and digestive symptoms, and who lived with a person infected with the coronavirus . In addition, experimental laboratory investigations (in China ) have observed infection in cats and ferrets, with active replication of the virus in the respiratory tract . This situation has also been observed although with “much less intensity” in dogs. But they are just rehearsals. Pets are not a significant source of transmission of this disease, experts say.
The Collegiate Veterinary Organization ( OCV ) has sent a new communication to its associates in which it states that, “for the moment,” it is not necessary to add new recommendations to regulate contact between humans and domestic animals in the face of the pandemic. If a pet owner has Covid-19 symptoms , they should try to leave the pet in the care of other people. In addition, owners are advised to wear a mask and wash their hands well before and after contact with the animal.
If the pet owner has symptoms of Covid-19, they should be left in the care of someone else.
The aforementioned report from the Ministry of Health indicates that “viral RNA has been detected in two dogs in Hong Kong and one cat in Belgium, with respiratory and digestive symptoms” and that they lived with a person suffering from Covid-19.
On the other hand, the document adds, “infection in cats and ferrets has been observed in experimental studies, with active replication of the virus in the respiratory tract, which was also observed with much less intensity in dogs. Active replication of the virus has not been observed in pigs, chickens, and ducks after experimental inoculation. ”
Regarding the Belgian cat and the two dogs from China, the OCV indicates that “these are exceptional cases”, and, “at the moment there is no scientific proof that they can transmit it to humans or other animals.” Regarding the study of China, the collegial organization clarifies that it is an investigation in which natural conditions are not recreated.
Research carried out in China indicates that cats can be infected with the coronavirus and can transmit it to other cats, but dogs are not really susceptible to infection. This study – published in the journal Nature – also concludes that chickens, pigs and ducks are unlikely to contract the virus.
But there are those who see no reason for alarm for cat owners. The results are based on laboratory experiments in which high doses of SARS-CoV-2 virus were deliberately administered, so they do not represent real-life interactions between people and their pets. This was indicated by virologist Linda Saif of Ohiom (Wooster State University), for whom there is no direct evidence that infected cats secrete enough coronavirus to transmit it to people.
The team, led by virologist Bu Zhigao, introduced samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the noses of five domestic cats.
When two of the animals were euthanized six days later , the researchers found viral RNA, as well as infectious virus particles, in their upper airways. The other three infected cats were placed in cages with uninfected cats.
The team subsequently detected viral RNA in one of these exposed cats, suggesting that it contracted the virus from the droplets expelled by the infected cats .
The researchers say that none of the infected cats showed symptoms of the disease, and that only one of the three felines exposed to infected animals contracted the virus. “This suggests that the virus may not be highly transmissible in cats,” they point out.