Can cats catch the virus from humans? It sure looks that way, according to research.

By Austin Cannon
September 11, 2020
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A new study suggests more cats may have contracted COVID-19 than what was originally thought. And if you’ve been diagnosed with the virus, it might be a good idea to quarantine away from your pet.  

According to Science Daily, scientists at Huazhong Agricultural University collected blood samples and mucus swabs from 102 cats between January and March in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first known coronavirus outbreak originated. 

The researchers found COVID-19 antibodies—generally an indication of a past infection—in 15 of the blood samples, 14.7 percent. Eleven of the cats had “neutralizing antibodies—proteins that bind so successfully to a virus they block the infection,” Science Daily reports. 

None of the cats died, and none of them tested positive for COVID-19 or exhibited symptoms either. 

The study examined cats from animal shelters and animal hospitals and those living with owners who’d tested positive for COVID-19. The three cats with the highest antibody levels were each owned by a COVID-19 patient, the study says. 

Lead researcher Meilin Jin says it’s “reasonable to speculate” that the cats were infected because they were in an area “polluted” with the virus or the virus was transferred from a human COVID-19 patient.  

Jin suggests COVID-19 patients isolate away from their cats and dogs as a precaution and follow strict hygiene standards. 

"Retrospective investigation confirmed that all of antibody positive samples were taken after the outbreak, suggesting that the infection of cats could be due to the virus transmission from humans to cats. Certainly, it is still needed to be verified via investigating the SARS-CoV-2 infections before this outbreak in a wide range of sampling," Jin says.

It’s not all bad news. Researchers said the study could be used as clues to help treat and prevent COVID-19 infections going forward, Science Daily writes. 

In the United States, the Department of Agriculture has only confirmed 17 COVID-19 cases in cats. Fifteen dogs have contracted the virus, as have one lion and one tiger.