Friday, 30 Oct 2020

Pet cats spread coronavirus and must self-isolate with owners, scientists urge

Pet cats can spread coronavirus and must be kept indoors while their owners self-isolate, scientists say.

Moggies are "highly susceptible" to catching the virus and can pass it on for the next five days.

Dogs can also catch the bug but don't pose any risk of infecting others with Covid-19, a US pilot study found.

There are now hopes that felines' immune systems could hold the key for new coronavirus vaccines as the virus's global death toll topped one million.

The Colorado State University researchers said: "Infected pet cats should not be allowed to roam freely outdoors to prevent potential risk of spreading infection to other outdoor cats or wildlife.

"While neither species developed clinical disease in this study, cats shed infectious virus for up to five days and infected naive cats via direct contact, while dogs do not appear to shed virus.

"Thus if symptomatic humans follow appropriate quarantine procedures and stay home with their pets, there is minimal risk of a potentially exposed cat infecting another human."

Their tests on seven cats and three dogs found neither species appeared to get ill from coronavirus but cats' immune systems stopped them getting reinfected.

The research paper said: "Resistance to reinfection holds promise that a vaccine strategy may protect cats and, by extension, humans.

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"Importantly, infected cats shed for no more than five days following exposure, suggesting that cats, if exposed to infected humans, will develop and clear infection rapidly."

The researchers said infected cats spread the virus to other felines through their mouths and noses.

They urged cat-owners to keep them indoors while anyone in their household is self-isolating as they could pose a risk to other wildlife.

"Perhaps most importantly, cats develop significant neutralizing antibody titers and are resistant to reinfection, although the duration of immunity is not currently known.

"This could prove a useful measurement for subsequent vaccine trials for both human and animal vaccine candidates.

"More research into the susceptibility of wildlife species and potential for establishment of infection in outdoor cat populations is necessary to identify risk factors and mitigation strategies to prevent establishment of reservoir infections in feral cats or other wildlife."

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Coronavirus
  • Science

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