It is time to close the book on concerns about COVID-19 transmission vis-a-vis dogs and cats. Despite a year of alarmist headlines, here is what we know, based on peer-reviewed studies:
- Dogs are highly resistant to COVID-19 and in the rare chance they do get it from a COVID-19 positive person in their household, they cannot transmit it to other dogs, other animal companions, or people because they are dead-end hosts.
- Cats and a number of other animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and mice have been ruled out as a source of human infection. “There is no evidence that companion animals are playing an epidemiological role in the spread of human infections of SARS-CoV-2” (the virus that causes COVID-19).
- While there is a small chance a cat may acquire COVID-19 from an infected person, it is very, very difficult for a cat to transmit it to other cats and, outside of a laboratory setting and intentional infliction with large doses of the virus, may be impossible.
And, now, comes the final nail on the coffin: a peer-reviewed study of community and shelter cats found no cat-to-cat transmission.
The study was conducted in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, which is significant for two reasons. First, Italy was not only one of the first and hardest hit countries outside of China, but Lombardy was “one of the worst affected Italian regions” with over half a million cases. Second, since community cat programs are government recognized and fairly extensive, all the community cats tested for SARS-CoV-2 had negative baselines prior to the pandemic.
In other words, before the pandemic, all cats tested negative for antibodies. And of the hundreds of samples tested afterward, only one cat “was positive for antibodies” (but tested negative for an active infection). The cat posed no risk to any other cat, did not transmit it to other cats despite being a member of a cat colony, and was almost certainly initially infected by a COVID-19 positive caretaker, not another cat. The same findings applied to shelter-tested cats.
As a result, we can conclude that “there is no indication of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in stray cats.” Combined with similar results in shelter-tested cats and those who live in human homes, cats are not a source of infection for people or other animals. And that, say study authors, “should alleviate public concerns about stray cats acting as SARS-CoV-2 carriers.”
The study, A pre- and during Pandemic Survey of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Stray Colony and Shelter Cats from a High Endemic Area of Northern Italy, is here.
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