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Expert warns of susceptibility of cats to Covid-19

Cats appear to be just as susceptible to Covid-19 as humans, according an expert in applied pathogen ecology at University College Cork (UCC).

Prof Gerry Killeen, AXA Research Chair in Applied Pathogen Ecology at UCC School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said research shows we should be exercising far greater caution regarding the virus and certain pets. 

Dogs, Prof Killeen said, are “weakly susceptible” to the virus, but cats are more susceptible than dogs. 

“This is not a reason to panic, but a reason to take action,” he said. 

He advised all cat owners who are ‘cocooning’ due to their age or health status to also “cocoon and isolate” their cats. 

“Cats are not very good at social distancing. The science shows that cats and ferrets are the two most susceptible animals to the virus.

“So far animals such as birds, rats, chickens and ducks are not susceptible, which is good news,” he added. 

Information from the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine notes “only a very small number of pets or other animals have tested positive for Covid-19”.

“These animals have lived in the same households or in very close proximity to people infected with Covid-19.” 

Regarding cats, they advise: “If your cat is usually kept indoors keep them inside and hygienically clean their litter tray regularly”. 

The Department further advises: “Some species of animals appear susceptible to the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes Covid-19 including dogs, cats (domestic and wild cat species), ferrets and mink. However, the numbers of animals that have tested positive for the disease worldwide remain very low. Cats appear more likely to display clinical signs of Covid-19 than dogs and can show respiratory and digestive tract signs.”

“Basic hygiene precautions should always be taken when handling animals, including regular handwashing, because animals can pass other diseases to humans.”

Pet owners exercising with their animals outdoors should keep pets on a leash and at least two metres away from other people and other pets. 

The HSE recommends that people infected with the virus or who are self-isolating remain indoors. Therefore, they should not bring their pet outdoors for exercise during this time.

Animals are not currently being tested for Covid-19 in Ireland.

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