Can my cat, dog or pet give me COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)?
Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on March 27, 2020.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that cats or pets can pass COVID-19 onto humans. However:
- Theoretically, droplets of the virus expelled during coughing or sneezing by a person with symptoms of COVID-19 that land on a pet’s fur, feathers, or skin could be transferred to another human
- Several cats and a few dogs appear to have contracted SARS-CoV-2 from their human owners
- People with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should get somebody else in their household to look after their pet, or if that is not possible, wear a face mask, minimize contact, and practice basic hygiene measures.
COVID-19 is a new disease and one we learn more about every day. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) belongs to a group of viruses called coronaviruses. Currently, seven different types of coronaviruses have been identified; all of which originally circulated in animals before evolving to infect humans.
Currently, there is no evidence that pets, such as dogs or cats, can pass SARS-CoV-2 onto humans; however, several organizations are investigating the possibility.
Can humans pass COVID-19 onto pets?
There is some evidence to suggest that humans can pass SARS-CoV-2 onto pets. Several cats, a few dogs, and other pets have been infected; published details include:
- A Chinese study found that cats were highly susceptible to the virus and easily transmitted the virus to other cats. Some kittens were found to have lesions in their lungs, nose and throat.
- The dog of a person hospitalized for COVID-19 in Hong Kong late February was quarantined and nasal and oral samples taken from the dog who tested weakly positive for SARS-CoV-2. The dog had no symptoms, but samples still tested positive eight days later. The dog subsequently died soon after its return home; however, it was 17 years old and this could have been from natural causes.
- A pup named Wilson tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Chapel Hill, NC. The mother, father, and son also tested positive. Another dog and ct in the same household tested negative.
- Ferrets have also been found to be highly susceptible to the virus and a tiger at the Bronx zoo in NYC tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after contact with an infected zookeeper.
Pets may also transfer the virus from human-to-human on their fur, feathers, or skin. For example, if you had COVID-19 and coughed or sneezed on your cat, and then your cat visited your neighbor, and they patted it, then the virus might be transferred to your neighbor’s hand and then enter their body when they inadvertently touch their face.
What should you do if you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and have a pet?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get somebody else in your household to look after your pet and avoid touching or being close to your pet. If you have to look after your pet yourself:
- Wear a face mask if possible, to protect your pet from droplets that aerosolize when you cough or sneeze
- Wash your hands frequently, before and after touching your pet. Follow other basic hygiene practices, such as not touching your face
- Avoid kissing, licking, or sharing food with your pet.
Pets that need to be relocated from households with confirmed human cases of COVID-19 should be placed under quarantine and veterinary surveillance for 14 days. Testing should be conducted for SARS-CoV-2 as appropriate and a negative test obtained before release.
- Information received on 08/03/2020 from Dr. Thomas Sit, Chief Veterinary Officer / Assistant Director (Inspection & Quarantine), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, Hong Kong, Hong Kong (SAR - PRC) https://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public/wahid.php/Reviewreport/Review?page_refer=MapFullEventReport&reportid=33546
- Questions and Answers on the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) 23/03/2020 World Organisation for Animal health. https://www.oie.int/en/scientific-expertise/specific-information-and-recommendations/questions-and-answers-on-2019novel-coronavirus/ Saif LJ.
- Animal coronaviruses: Lessons For SARS. In: Institute of Medicine (US) Forum on Microbial Threats; Knobler S, Mahmoud A, Lemon S, et al., editors. Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92442/
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