26 March 2020
Can cats catch coronavirus (COVID-19)? What can I do if I have to self-isolate? We’ve put together answers to some of the more common questions about coronavirus here.
Can my cat catch the new coronavirus (COVID-19)?
There is no current evidence to suggest that cats can become unwell or spread the COVID-19 virus between themselves or back to people.
Can I get coronavirus (COVID-19) from my cat or anyone else’s cat?
There is currently no evidence that cats can spread COVID-19 to people. Although there is no indication that cats can play a role in the spread of the disease, where there is close contact with an infected person, there may be a risk that a cat could act as a fomite and carry the virus on their fur. By providing a surface for the virus to persist on, there is a possibility that this can allow the virus to be transferred to other people – usually those within the household.
However, little is known about how long the virus can actually survive on a cat’s fur, if at all and therefore, there is no need to worry unnecessarily.
It’s important to practice good hygiene when interacting with your cat, this means:
- wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling and feeding your cat
- avoid letting your cat lick your face or nose – if they do, take care to wash with soap and hot water afterwards
My cat needs to go to the vet. What should I do?
If you think your cat needs veterinary care you should call the practice for further advice in the first instance. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless your vet instructs you to. Currently, cats should only be taken to the vet for emergency treatment. If you are self-isolating you may need to arrange for someone else to transport your cat for emergency treatment.
Do I have to keep my cat inside if I am ill?
If you’ve been diagnosed with, are suspected of having or are displaying characteristic symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is advisable to minimise the amount of time your cat spends outdoors unsupervised. If possible, keep your cat indoors if they are happy to be kept indoors. Ensuring your cat continues to get daily activity is important for their wellbeing. Try the following:
- consider ways to play that do not involve direct contact with fur or saliva
- try a fishing rod toy with feathers – allowing your cat necessary mental stimulation at a distance to you
- if your cat does continue to play with catnip toys or balls, you should avoid touching these or thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling them
What do I need to do for my cat if I decide to keep them indoors all or part of the time?
Keeping a cat that usually goes outdoors confined indoors can be stressful and frustrating for the cat. It’s important to ensure your cat continues to get daily activity to help both their mental and physical wellbeing. The following tips will allow them to adjust to their temporary indoor life.
- Invest in a fishing rod toy with feathers – this provides great exercise for your cat as well as mental stimulation as they try to ‘catch’ the feathers
- Enrichment feeders are excellent boredom-busters as they make cats work to get their food
- Provide your cat with a place to hide and ideally somewhere to get up high – a cardboard box is a perfect hiding place
- Cats restricted to indoors will each need a litter tray for toileting (plus one extra) - ensure it is cleaned regularly!
- Also, provide your cat with at least one sturdy scratching post
- You can also use synthetic pheromones such as FELIWAY®CLASSIC to help ease your cat’s stress from being confined. These are available as a plug-in diffuser or spray and help your cat feel more secure during times of stress
I’m currently well. Do I need to keep my cat indoors?
If you’re currently well but in the vulnerable category set out by government – e.g: over the age of 70, have an underlying health condition or are in precautionary self-isolation, we’d recommend the same measures as for those with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you’re currently well and not in the vulnerable category there is no reason to restrict your cat’s outdoor access. However, don’t forget to maintain good hygiene, washing your hands with soap and hot water after handling your cat.
Is it safe to stroke other people’s cats and/or let them in my house?
Because of the possibility of COVID-19 transferring from an infected person to the fur of a cat and because so little is known about how long the virus might survive on the fur we advise against stroking or picking up strange cats (eg in the street) or allowing other people’s cats, stray or community cats into your house. We know that some cats do like to live in several households and ‘visit’ but not allowing them in during the current crisis will minimise any risks of cats helping to spread COVID-19. At the moment, it is considered ok to leave food for feral or community cats as long as you take precautions in washing your hands etc.
Information is correct as of 25 March 2020. For up to date information on coronavirus, visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus