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
Do I need to be worried about transmitting COVID-19 to my cat?
There have been a very small number of reports in the media suggesting transmission of COVID-19 from people to cats may be possible. Currently the evidence is limited and the number of cats involved is extremely low, implying transmission from humans to cats is extremely rare. Therefore, it is important that owners should not worry unnecessarily.
As a precaution, it is advised that owners should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling their pet and those infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) should be particularly mindful by minimising contact.
Can cats transmit COVID-19 to people?
There is currently no evidence that cats can transmit COVID-19 to humans and so owners should not worry unnecessarily.
However, as it is known that the virus can survive on surfaces such as door handles, it may be possible, despite the lack of evidence, for the virus to survive in a similar way on a cat’s fur.
- As a precaution it is advised that owners carry out good hygiene and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after handling their cat.
I keep seeing mentions of 'Feline Coronavirus or FCov. What is Feline Coronavirus or FCov and should I be worried about my cat getting it?
It is important to note that Feline Coronavirus (FCov) is not associated with the current coronavirus epidemic.
It is a common, contagious virus that can be found in the faeces of cats. It is more common in multi-cat households and does not affect other animals or people.
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
- don’t forget to maintain good hygiene, washing your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling your cat. Try to keep close interactions with your cat, such as petting, to a minimum if you can
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. Try to keep close interactions with your cat, such as petting, to a minimum if you can.
My cat isn’t neutered. Can they still go outside?
Currently most vets are only doing urgent or emergency treatments and very limited routine surgery, such as neutering. Even vet practices that are now beginning to neuter cats will unlikely to be doing so at a normal capacity, due to lower levels of staff and the need to maintain social distancing.
Any pregnancy in a cat always has an associated risk of complications and as access to veterinary care is limited at the moment, we’d advise that you avoid your cat getting pregnant (or for male cats, making another cat pregnant).
For this reason, if you have a male and female cat in your household and they are not neutered, you should keep them separated. Remember: this also applies to cats that are related, e.g brother and sister.
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
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. Some vets may arrange for a member of staff to collect and return the cat.
I’m self-isolating due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and my cat needs to go to the vet. What should I do?
If you are self-isolating you will not be able to go to the vet with your cat for emergency treatment. Phone the vet for advice and if the vet agrees to treat your cat, you'll need to arrange for someone else to transport your cat to the vet for you. In this case, we’d recommend the following tips:
- create a plan with your friend or family member for them to contact you by phone as they arrive at your home – that way, you can leave your cat in your carrier outside your door and they can approach at a safe distance
- government advice states that they should wear an outer garment that is disposable (such as an apron) or something that can be easily washed, as well as disposable gloves when handling the cat carrier
- they’ll need to practice good hygiene after handling your cat and cat carrier. Advise them to wash their hands with soap and hot water thoroughly - even if they have been wearing gloves
Can I look after someone else’s cat if they are unwell or need to go to hospital?
Because of the possibility of COVID-19 transferring from an infected person (whether or not they have symptoms) to the fur of a cat, and because so little is known about how long the virus might survive, we’d advise against taking someone else’s cat into your home. We would also advise against going into their home to look after the cat.
If they are unable to look after their cat, government guidance is to discuss this with their local authority.
Is it safe to stroke other people’s cats and/or let them in my
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.
Can I still feed community cats and/or feral colonies?
With the current restrictions on individual trips outside the house, any feeding of community, stray or feral colonies of cats could be incorporated into a daily walk for exercise if the cats live locally. If the cats are on your own land, eg they come into your garden, feeding can continue. In both cases take care to avoid any contact with the cats, such as stroking. In all cases ensure good hygiene, particularly washing your hands with soap and hot water.
Information is correct as of 16 April 2020.