Researchers take coronavirus from human patients and infect cats with Coronavirus.
Each cat is housed in a cage with another cat that tested negative for Coronavirus.
Within five days, coronavirus was found in all newly exposed cats.
None of the cats ever showed any coronavirus symptoms.
“There was no sneezing, no coughing, they never had a high body temperature or lost any weight,” Halfmann said. “If a pet owner looked at them … they wouldn’t have noticed anything.”
Scientists who led the research say it shows the need for more research into whether coronavirus can spread from people to cats to people again.
Health experts have downplayed that possibility.
The American Veterinary Medical Association said in a statement that just because an cat can be deliberately infected in a lab “does not mean that it will easily be infected with that same virus under natural conditions.”
Anyone concerned about that risk should use “common sense hygiene,” said virus expert Peter Halfmann. Don’t kiss your pets and keep surfaces clean to cut the chances of picking up any virus an animal might shed, he said.
University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine led the lab experiment and published results Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Federal grants paid for the work.
SAVE THE CATS FROM CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH, SHARE THIS LINK ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK.
Last month, two domestic cats in different parts of New York state tested positive for the coronavirus after mild respiratory illnesses.
They were thought to have picked it up from people in their homes or neighborhoods.
Some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo also have tested positive for the virus, as have a small number of other animals around the world.
Those cases and the new lab experiment show “there is a public health need to recognize and further investigate the potential chain of human-cat-human transmission,” the authors wrote.
Guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that based on the limited information available so far, the risk of pets spreading coronavirus to people “is considered to be low.”
The veterinary medicine group says “there is no evidence to suggest that animals, including pets, that may be incidentally infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19.” It stressed that person-to-person transmission was driving the global pandemic.
However, the group noted that many diseases spread between pets and people, so hygiene is always important: Wash your hands before and after touching pets, and keep your pet and its food and water bowls clean.
Halfmann, whose two cats sleep near him, said the worry is greater for animal shelters, where one infected animal could pass coronavirus to many others pets where large groups of animals are being held.
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