Just to address some things that are new and current in the media right now, it was recently reported that a cat in Belgium was diagnosed with coronavirus after it’s owner tested positive for COVID – 19.
Before we get all worked up and scared by this, a couple things need to be pointed out. First, the testing of the cat is questionable. It is very uncertain at this point if the coronavirus that the cat has is actually COVID – 19. Cats get a number of coronaviruses of varying severity. In fact, in our veterinary community that fact alone has caused considerable discussion and disagreement over the years.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis is a very severe disease that cats get that is caused by a coronavirus. There is at least one test out there for that disease that gave a very large number of false positives in cats that had Feline Enteric Coronavirus, which is generally a benign infection that causes no symptoms. So, keep in mind that testing for coronaviruses in cats is fraught with already existing difficulties. It is very likely that the test run on the cat in Belgium is no 100% accurate, or even close.
Secondly, if it is true, it shows transmission from human to animal, not the other way around. We have seen 2 dogs in Hong Kong that tested positive for the COVID – 19 virus. They are not sick from it, and they have not been shown to be able to transfer the disease to humans. So, even if this is true, it doesn’t show that animals can transfer it to people.
Lastly, we have been dealing with coronaviruses in animals for a very long time. There are a number of such diseases in cats, dogs, and other animals. We even vaccinate for some of them. They have never been shown to be dangerous to humans. It is likely that this Belgian cat has a common form of a coronavirus that happened to occur at the same time as it’s owner. Please do not consider getting rid of your family pet because of this highly suspicious report.
We will continue to monitor the situation and provide more information as it is presented.