Wednesday 14 July 2021

Cat owners ignore information about transmitting Covid-19 to their cat

NEWS AND COMMENT: We have seen a lot of information recently in the news media about people who have contracted Covid-19 passing it on to their cat companions. This is, after all, a zoonotic disease and therefore this sort of transmission, between species, is entirely plausible and possible. In some cases, it is more likely to happen, they say, such as when your cat snuggles up with you on your bed at night.

Cat owners ignore information about transmitting Covid-19 to their cat
 Cat owners ignore information about transmitting Covid-19 to their cat. Image: MikeB

A study of 48 cats and 54 dogs in 77 households were tested for antibodies to this disease. They analysed how owners interacted with their pets including how often they petted and kissed them and whether they allowed them to sit on their lap and sleep in their bed. They also tested cats and dogs living in an animal shelter for Covid antibodies.

More than two thirds of the cats in homes and 40% of the dogs in homes tested positive for antibodies which showed that they had been exposed to Covid and their immune system had reacted to create antibodies.

Only 9% of cats and dogs in the animal shelter had Covid antibodies.

More than 20% of the owners had symptoms of coronavirus. Cats who spent more time with their owners including on the bed had a higher risk of being infected by their owners. They were surprised at the ease at which Covid transmitted from people to pets. And they highlighted the increased chance of transmission when both person and pet are in bed together.

Okay, I'll stop there on the study because what it's saying is that when cats and their human companion are together the disease is going to be transmitted which we know already because it is a contagious disease. And as often mentioned it is a zoonotic disease.

But the big point about this in my honest opinion is that not one cat owner is going to change their sleeping arrangements with their cat! No cat owner is going to change their routines and habits in the way they interact with their cat because of this research. I certainly haven't. I don't think the research has any real value other than the fact that some scientists are concerned about animals creating a reservoir of the disease which may re-emerge in the future.

One reason why people are going to ignore this information is because cats have very mild symptoms when they get the disease. They cure themselves quite quickly and it appears that they are not in any danger of suffering from severe symptoms requiring veterinary treatment. You're not going to interfere with the bond between a person and their cat companion on the basis that they might transmit this disease to their cat resulting in mild symptoms or the cat is asymptomatic.

If I'm correct, and I'm confident I am, it is in stark contrast to how people react to the possibility of getting the disease from another person. And the reason for this difference is because even in homes where a person loves their cat, they still regard the cat as "just a cat". It is hard to admit it but by-and-large in societies generally across the planet, the domestic cat is valued much lower than the human being.

Therefore, if a person gives their cat the disease the impact is slight on the person. It depends on the relationship obviously and I'm generalising as I must do. But all in all, the research has little value other than to scientists. It does not impinge upon the consciousness of cat owners.

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