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Coronavirus and Cats: What Cat Owners Need to Know About COVID-19

Can you catch COVID-19 from your cat? How should pet owners prepare for social-distancing? Get answers to your pet and coronavirus questions.

Mary Schwager  |  Mar 17th 2020

The coronavirus outbreak means many of us are hunkering down with our cats. You might be working from home, self-isolating, or even ill with COVID-19. So what precautions should you take with your kitty? Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus and cats.

Can you catch COVID-19 from your cat? Can you give it to your cat?

Experts say you cannot catch COVID-19 from your cat, but at least two household cats in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States.”

SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in very few animals worldwide and currently, the CDC is not recommending the routine testing of animals.

If you’re quarantined or sick, what precautions should you take with your cat?

The CDC recommends if you’re exposed to the virus, or have it, you should limit interaction with your pets, just like you would with people in your home.

The agency says if you’re symptomatic, “avoid direct contact with pets, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”

And Dr. Teller advises wearing a mask and gloves before handling your cat if you’re self-quarantined or sick.

“Because if you sneeze or cough on your cat and someone comes along and touches it, that person could potentially pick up the infection from petting your cat. We have not seen cases of that happening, but that’s what the CDC is recommending in an abundance of caution,” Dr. Teller says.

You can also have another person in your home, who is not sick, be the primary caregiver for the pet. Teller says you don’t need to send your pet away, just take precautions.

What food and supplies does my cat need during a quarantine?

The Red Cross and FEMA both recommend having a two-week supply of food, medications, cat litter and all the supplies you need to care for your kitty. 

But some crisis response experts, like Diane Vukovic, author of Disaster Preparedness for Women, recommends getting a month’s worth of stuff.

“It’s also possible that you could start showing symptoms near the end of your quarantine period. Having extra supplies on hand means you don’t have to worry about shopping while sick,” Diane says.

If your cat lives outside, you’ll want to make sure you wash your hands before and after you replenish their food and water, so nothing is contaminated. You may even want to keep them inside during this time just in case the virus can live on their fur.

What if I’m quarantined or get COVID-19, and my cat needs to go to the vet?

If you’re quarantined, and it’s not an urgent appointment, call your vet, tell them what’s going on, and reschedule. Even if you’re not quarantined, it’s a good idea to give your vet a call and see if they recommend you reschedule well visits.  

If you test positive for the virus, your local health department will be notified. Tell them you have a cat and ask for their advice if there is an emergency.

“If your cat needs urgent veterinary care and you’re under quarantine, you’ll need to loop in your public health officials so your cat can get veterinary care while you maintain your quarantine,” Teller says.

For more information on this continually changing situation, bookmark the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s websites.

Top Photograph: Photo: martin-dm/Getty Images