While there has been some confusion until now as to whether animals can carry the coronavirus and infect people, it has now been advised by veterinary scientists that self-isolating cat owners should strive to keep their furry friends indoors where possible to help prevent the spread of the virus.
While there isn’t any evidence of animals infecting people with the virus, Dr Angel Almendros from City University in Hong Kong told BBC News that it would be sensible to keep cats indoors – where it is safe and possible to do so – during the outbreak as animal fur could carry the virus for a period of time if it were to come into contact with a sick person.
The British Veterinary Association has said that ‘owners should not worry’ about an increased risk of becoming infected via their pets, and president of the BVA Daniella Dos Santos told the BBC that she agreed with the advice to keep cats inside where possible. However, the BVA has since clarified that these precautions need only be heeded ‘if someone in their own household showed symptoms’ and that every pet owner should ‘practice good hand hygiene’.
While a handful of cases have proven that animals can carry the virus (a pet dog in Hong Kong, a pet cat in Belgium and now a tiger at Bronx Zoo in New York all tested positive for Covid-19) they don’t get sick or suffer from any symptoms in the same way humans do. There is mounting evidence that cats can transmit the virus to other cats and that humans can pass the virus to animals, but less so the other way around.
So while there’s no concrete evidence that domestic animals can pass this disease back to people, it would be sensible to err on the side of caution as much as possible. ‘Treat pets like other people in your household. So if you’re feeling sick, it’s better not to interact with them,’ said Dr Almendros.