New study suggests cats can catch COVID-19, but experts say this is no cause for concern
According to CNN, a recent study out of China revealed that cats may be susceptible to contracting COVID-19. And, the study also indicated that cats can transfer the illness to each other.
While ferrets joined the ranks of their feline cousins in susceptibility to COVID-19, dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks are not.
Experts say concerned cat lovers should not send their furry friends packing just yet, as there is no evidence that cats with the virus will become very sick or die.
There is also no proof that virus-carrying cats can infect humans.
"Yes, people should embrace their pets. These researchers squirted the virus down the cats nose in high concentration, which is pretty artificial," said Dr. John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
The lab experiment used a completely unrealistic scenario, experts say.
First, researchers forced extremely high doses of virus up the nostrils of five 8-month-old domesticated cats.
Cats in our homes or even in the wild would never be exposed to that level of virus.
"That's a whole lot more than an average human would get," said infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious disease at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
"So this is an artificial circumstance and we don't know that it happens in nature at all," Schaffner added.
Two of the five cats were euthanized six days later. Researchers found virus particles in their upper respiratory systems.
The remaining three infected cats were put into a cage adjacent to three non-infected cats. One of those three cats later tested positive for the virus, while the other two did not. Still, the researchers felt that showed the virus could be transmitted via respiratory drops.
Or did it? None of the infected cats exhibited signs of illness. And even if they did pass the virus to each other, that doesn't mean they would be able to pass it on to humans.
That's what happened nearly two decades ago with a sister coronavirus called SARS-CoV, which causes the deadly pneumonia-like respiratory disease called SARS.
Just like now, science found cats could be infected with SARS-CoV and infect other cats. But the virus didn't transmit widely among house cats during the 2002 to 2004 pandemic, nor were there any known cases of transmission to humans.
The study found ferrets were also "efficient" replicators of the virus -- meaning that the virus can easily grow and reproduce in their long, slinky bodies.
"SARS-CoV-2 can replicate in the upper respiratory tract of ferrets for up to eight days, without causing severe disease or death," the study said. The study did not look at a longer time frame.
That's good news for researchers looking for a way to test any future vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, also called the novel coronavirus.