A lot of panic and misinformation is being spread right now dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak and out of fear, people are getting rid of their cats and dogs. While cats can catch the coronavirus as well as spread it, the strain affecting the human population currently is not the same.
Coronavirus in Cats
When a cat catches the coronavirus, they are susceptible to FIP or “Feline infectious peritonitis” which is a rare but usual fatal infection brought on by autoimmune response. FCoV (Feline Coronavirus) is a species-specific that is passed from one cat to another through feces. This particular virus is a mutation of the feline enteric coronavirus and is not contagious to humans or other animals.
Studies have been conducted to check the effective rate of GS-441524, a relatively new vaccination, that stops the virus in its tracts and has over an 80% success rate. If your cat does have FIP be sure to talk with your vet about this option. It is not cheap but may save your cat’s life.
Coronavirus in Humans
There are several different strains and types of the coronavirus that can affect humans. The flu, the common cold, and other various spreadable sicknesses are due to different coronaviruses. The COVID-19, in particular, is an infection caused directly from SARS-CoV-2 or “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”. This is a human to human contagion that is spread through coughing and sneezing of an infected host. There is currently no vaccination for this virus but practicing proper hygiene, boosting the immune system using vitamin C rich foods or supplements, and avoiding heavily crowded areas will be enough to protect you. Those with weakened immune systems and those over the age of 65 are at most risk for this virus to cause complications and should use extra precaution.
FCoV can’t be spread to humans. It is a feline specific virus that can only live in a single species host. COVID-19 (caused by SARS-CoV-2) can’t be spread to cats. It is a human-specific viral infection that can only live in a single species host.
While this virus was contracted from an infected animal host (believed to be a bat species in China) it is a mutation of the SARS virus. Bats, like rodents, can harbor many different diseases that can mutate and infect people but not affect other animals, such as cats. Unclean conditions of public market places selling bats who were infected are believed to be the root of the outbreak.
While the COVID-19 infection is not believed to be transferred from humans to animals, SARS-CoV-2 has been reported to show up in ferrets as well as cats under recent testing. Because it is not entirely understood yet, cat and ferret owners who are sick should use caution around their pets as they can develop a secondary respiratory infection from a human infected with the COVID-19 infection. Symptoms are similar to the common feline cold such as dry coughs, runny nose, and loss of appetite.