Cats Are More Likely Than Dogs to Contract COVID-19, But Cat Owners Should Not Panic
The research to better understand SARS-CoV-2 continues, and a recent study gives some light on the likelihood of our domestic pets contracting the virus – specifically, cats are more susceptible to the virus that causes COVID-19 than dogs are.
The researchers tested blood serum from a total of 239 pet cats and 510 pet dogs collected between mid-April and mid-June 2020 to seek for antibodies indicative of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The findings indicated that 8% of cats and less than 1% of dogs had contracted COVID-19, indicating that the virus can be transmitted between species and that cats are more likely to contract it and become infected than dogs.
“Because companion animals can be the source of a range of infectious diseases, determining how susceptible the two most popular pet species in the United States are to SARS-CoV-2 – and how prevalent the disease may be among them – could have significant impacts for both human and animal health,” says University of Minnesota molecular biologist Hinh Ly.
The findings are only one piece of a larger picture that researchers are beginning to piece together regarding animals and COVID-19. While we are aware that pets can contract SARS-CoV-2, the risk of their becoming ill appears to be slim.
“I am still a bit surprised that cats are so readily infected and yet rarely exhibit any signs of illness,” biomedical researcher Angela Bosco-Lauth of Colorado State University told the New York Times.
Additionally, it appears improbable that animals may transmit SARS-CoV-2 to humans; nevertheless, we can probably transmit the virus to our pets when we are in close contact to them — so hugging your cat or dog while you are ill with COVID-19 is not a smart idea.
The researchers were unable to investigate in depth why cats may be more susceptible to infection than dogs in this new study. Cats’ ACE2 protein – which is more comparable to the human ACE2 protein than the dog equivalent – functions as a coronavirus receptor, which could be one of the reasons.
Because the blood serum was obtained anonymously, the researchers were unable to examine aspects such as whether the animals spent the majority of their time outdoors or indoors, or whether there was evidence of transmission between pets.
The team is currently conducting a follow-up investigation that will include the latter months of 2020, when the number of human COVID-19 cases in the area was significantly greater. This should provide us with additional information about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads and how it can be contained more effectively in the future.
“The results will help clarify the prevalence of cross-species transmission of this coronavirus among pets and their owners,” says University of Minnesota molecular virologist Yuying Liang.
The research was published in the journal Virulence.