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Health & Wellness

Can cats get COVID-19?

Learn how this disease affects cats.

After looking into whether or not COVID-19 can impact dogs, we decided to do some research on cats, too. So the Dig spoke to Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, to learn more about if cats can catch COVID-19 and, if so, how to best protect their health. 

Can cats get COVID? 

Cats can catch COVID, a disease caused by a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 — but it’s rare, Dr. McCullough says. She adds that in the off chance your feline friend catches COVID, they can spread it to other cats through direct contact with their saliva and respiratory droplets. It’s unknown if cats can transmit the virus to other animal species. 

Older cats, and those with underlying diseases, are more likely to contract COVID-19, she adds. 

Can cats get COVID from humans?

If you’re sick with COVID, you should probably avoid your cat. “It is currently thought that cats can catch COVID-19 through direct contact with their pet parents,” Dr. McCullough explains. If you need to interact with your cat, she recommends washing your hands before and after touching them and wearing a mask. 

However, she adds that it’s not likely that your cat will spread COVID to your family members. 

COVID-19 symptoms in cats

Symptoms of COVID in cats are usually mild, Dr. McCullough says, but watch out for coughing, sneezing and decreased energy. Take your cat to the veterinarian to rule out the cause of the health changes. Dr. McCullough explains that COVID symptoms mimic other cat respiratory illnesses, like herpesvirus. 

However, if you’re currently sick, Dr. McCullough warns against visiting the vet’s office physically. “Pet parents sick with COVID-19 should not take their pets to the veterinary clinic themselves and should observe all local, state and federal directives for quarantine and social distancing,” she says. 

RELATED: Can cats get colds?

How do veterinarians diagnose COVID in cats? 

According to Dr. McCullough, a COVID diagnosis is usually based on what pet parents tell their vet. If a pet parent is sick with COVID, it’s more likely that a cat would be sick, too, she adds.

“There is a test for COVID-19 in cats; however, it is not often used because the risk of spread to other animals is considered low, and cats often have mild symptoms that resolve on their own,” Dr. McCullough explains. “Veterinarians may do testing like blood work or X-rays to rule out other common respiratory illnesses.”

Treatment options for COVID in cats

Unfortunately, there’s no specific treatment plan for COVID in cats. Dr. McCullough says that most cats recover from COVID on their own. 

“Most cats only have very mild signs of COVID-19 and do not need anything other than TLC,” she adds. “Pet parents should monitor their cat’s energy levels and appetite.”

While there’s still not that much research about how COVID-19 affects cats, knowing what to do when you or another cat is sick will protect your pet. The signs may be subtle, but changes like decreased energy, coughing or sneezing can indicate that your cat is struggling with a COVID infection. 

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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