In the past 5 months, the word “Coronavirus” has dominated our thoughts and conversations across the globe, not only relative to humans, but also regarding pets. This week we heard about the first confirmed case of “Wuhan” Coronavirus being isolated in a British domestic cat, which has understandably created some anxiety amongst cat owners across Europe.
As in humans, the anxiety around this Coronavirus strain is directly related to the lack of information and prior experience of it amongst pet owners and society at large. As more data emerges, we for sure are learning more. However, it is a virus which seems transmissible from humans to cats, and certainly not from cats to humans.
Here we will look at some of the facts which we know about Coronavirus, and how animals and humans can safely co-exist during this pandemic.
How would you describe Coronavirus?
Like most common viradiae, Coronavirus exists in many different forms. We certainly have heard extensively about the “Wuhan” strain, however it is important to realise that this is not the only strain that exists. Different strains can also cause varying clinical signs and effects.
What form affects cats, is it actual Coronavirus?
The forms of Coronavirus which affect various species are host specific, and we rarely see cross infection of one virus type from one animal species to another. Typically, we do see a Feline Coronavirus which has been documented for many years, and as veterinary surgeons we routinely deal with. This virus is not a zoonotic strain, and therefore does not transmit from animal to humans.
Can my cat spread Cat Coronavirus to another cat?
Yes, the common Cat Coronavirus is easily spread from cat to cat, however not to humans. We can vaccinate cats against it, and this is commonly done. Cats if infected, can present with varying clinical signs including a swollen abdomen which is related to an immune system response to viral loading.
Is cat coronavirus contagious to humans?
There are no recorded cases of Feline Coronavirus spreading from cats to humans. This virus type is specific to cats, and not to dogs or humans. This allows vaccine to be manufactured, which specifically target the virus effectively.
How can a cat acquire Coronavirus?
There are multiple ways that a cat can become infected with coronavirus, and we believe that up to 2 in every 5 cats will acquire the infection at some point in their lives ! In fact, the majority of cats that come across the virus will never become ill, and any that do only do so transiently. Spontaneous recovery is most common.
Unlike in humans, where the aerosol transmission is most common, cats acquire the infection by ingestion orally. This happens by direct cat to cat contact, or by access to food bowls, and the urine or faeces of an infected cat. Therefore, generalised exposure is the most common route to exposure, and cleaning utensils helps a lot in preventing spread.
The majority of cats will overcome the virus and will clinically look normal.
As an owner, can you do anything?
There is a vaccine available which can protect your cat against Feline Coronavirus. Additionally, as your cats is vaccinated against the common “cat flu” and possibly with feline leukaemia vaccine also, it is worth discussing the value of vaccination with your veterinary surgeon.
Always remember that keeping food bowls, water bowls and litter trays clean is highly effective in minimising the spread of Coronavirus and subsequent risk to your cat. If in doubt, always call your veterinary surgeon for advise and they will assist you and your cat.
We ask all cat owners to continue caring for your cat as you always have, and not to be alarmed by headlines which often are not wholly accurate. Responsible pet owners are always there for their pet, and never more so than now. Petbond is also always here to support you should you need our advise.