Cats are “highly susceptible” to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a study published in the journal Science this week. Ferrets had similarly high susceptibility, dogs were found to have low susceptibility, and livestock (pigs, chickens, and ducks) are not susceptible to the virus.
This research, conducted by a team of Chinese scientists, adds to the record experimental evidence of a phenomenon that’s been observed around the world, from a Belgian housecat to the big cats at the Bronx Zoo, that cats can contract the disease.
Researchers attempted to infect these various species by introducing viral particles via the nose. Antibody tests showed that cats and ferrets were the most likely to contract the disease and that cats could infect each other via respiratory droplets.
The purpose of the study was to identify which animals are vulnerable to the virus so that they can serve as test subjects in the vaccine development process. The researchers also said that surveillance of the virus in cats “should be considered as an adjunct to elimination of COVID-19 in humans.”
These results should also serve as a further warning to people interacting with animals.
“What these data do provide is support for the recommendation that people who are with COVID-19 should be distancing themselves, not only from other household members but also from their household pets, so as not to transmit the virus to their pets, particularly to cats or other felines,” Daniel Kuritzkes, head of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told Reuters.
So if you haven’t already, it’s probably a good idea to make your outdoor cat an indoor cat, at least temporarily. And if you encounter a dog on one of your isolation walks, it’s a good idea, though they do present less of a risk than cats do, to steer clear even if their leash allows their owner to stand more than six feet away from you.