Hide your wife, hide your cats.
Scientists have found new evidence that humans can infect their cats with COVID-19.
The findings are especially worrisome, given that animal transmission may encourage the breeding of new coronavirus variations, and set off a new wave of infections.
Other instances of cats coming down with COVID-19 have been reported; whether it was transmitted via humans could not be confirmed at the time.
But there have now been at least two confirmed cases of pet owners having passed SARS-CoV-2 to their cats, according to Scottish researchers at the University of Glasgow, who published their findings in the journal Veterinary Record.
The two cats were of different breeds and lived in different households. One, a 4-month-old female Ragdoll kitten, developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in March 2020, and was euthanized due breathing difficulties and rapidly declining health in April. Around the same time, the other case study, a 6-year-old female Siamese, showed only mild symptoms of illness, such as nasal discharge and conjunctivitis.
Veterinarians say this research is critical, not only to the health of our pets, but as a way of better understanding how coronavirus variants develop — the fear is that animals may act as a “viral reservoir” for pathogens to mutate.
“These two cases of human-to-animal transmission, found in the feline population in the UK, demonstrate why it is important that we improve our understanding of animal SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Margaret Hosie, lead author and medical researcher at the University of Glasgow.
Talking to the BBC, Hosie said, “Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high. However, as human cases decrease, the prospect of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans.”
Hosie added, “It is therefore important to improve our understanding of whether exposed animals could play any role in transmission.”