Displaying items by tag: infection

Cats and COVID-19

Information and resources for those concerned about their cats during the pandemic

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Keeping cats indoors is safer for cats, people, and wildlife. ABC has numerous resources to help pet owners transition their cats to full-time indoor living, including enrichment activities, literature, and more. Photo by Nikita Starichenko/Shutterstock

(Washington, D.C., April 10, 2020) As the COVID-19 pandemic tragically continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of people across the globe, evidence is mounting that domestic cats and other felines may also be at risk of contracting the disease. Professional organizations and new research suggest keeping pet cats indoors to manage infection risks.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) this week recommended that people who are self-isolating or have COVID-19 symptoms keep their cats indoors. According to BVA, it is possible that outdoor cats may carry the virus on their fur, just as the virus can live on other surfaces.

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s standing policy is that pet cats be kept indoors. Their policy states that “keeping owned cats confined, such as housing them in an enriched indoor environment, in an outdoor enclosure, or exercising leash-acclimated cats, can minimize the risks to the cats, wildlife, humans, and the environment.”

For people wanting to respond to these concerns by transitioning their cats from the outdoors to indoors, whether temporarily or permanently, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) offers a range of helpful solutions on its website that were developed over years of consultation with veterinarians and pet owners. 

New studies from researchers in China, where the virus was first identified, evaluated SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, to determine host susceptibilities and to better understand how the virus may move through the environment. These studies (Luan et al. 2020; Shi et al. 2020; Sun et al. preprint; Zhang et al. preprint), taken together, concluded that domestic cats are susceptible to infection, that infections have occurred both in experimental trials and outside the laboratory, and that infected domestic cats may transmit the virus to uninfected domestic cats.

Domestic cat infections have also been recently reported in Belgium and Hong Kong. Two Malayan Tigers, two Amur Tigers, and three Lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York have also shown symptoms of infection, and the only tiger to be tested came back positive for COVID-19. It’s suspected that people exposed these felines to the virus. So far, the disease does not appear to be fatal to cats, and there is no evidence that the disease has passed from cats to people.

“Keeping pet cats safely contained indoors, on a leash, or in a catio is always a great choice to protect cats, birds, and people,” said Grant Sizemore, Director of Invasive Species Programs at ABC. “At this point, it appears that keeping pet cats indoors is also the safer alternative to ensure the virus isn’t accidentally picked up or transferred by the cat.”

As well as being at risk from diseases, cars, and other threats, outdoor cats kill an estimated 2.4 billion wild birds each year in the U.S. alone.

Since 1997, ABC’s Cats Indoors program has supported responsible cat ownership that not only protects birds and other wildlife but also supports long, healthy lives for pet cats. Cat owners interested in bringing their cats indoors, or providing safe outdoor time for their pets, can find resources on the Cats Indoors website.

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American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

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Cat owners should keep cats indoors, use tick preventatives to reduce chance of disease

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­—Lone Star ticks, which are notorious carriers of many diseases including cytauxzoonosis, or “bobcat fever,” have been spreading across the nation in recent years. As a result, cats across much of the country are now exposed to the deadly disease. University of Missouri veterinarian Leah Cohn, a small animal disease expert, and Adam Birkenheuer from North Carolina State University, have found an effective treatment for the dangerous disease.

“Previous treatment methods have only been able to save less than 25 percent of infected cats, but our method, which is now being used by veterinarians across the country, has been shown to save about 60 percent of infected cats,” Cohn said. “While that number isn’t as high as we’d like due to the deadly nature of the disease, our method is the first truly effective way to combat the disease.”

Routinely carried by bobcats and mountain lions, Cohn and Birkenheuer also found that bobcat fever can even infect tigers. All types of cats, but only cats, can catch bobcat fever. Cohn calls the disease the “Ebola virus for cats,” saying that it is a very quick and painful death for cats that succumb from the infection. Bobcat fever is easily spread between cats through tick bites, but Cohn and Birkenheuer found that the disease is not readily passed down through birth like malaria and many other protozoan diseases.

“Bobcat fever affects healthy outdoor cats the most, because they are the most likely to get bitten by ticks,” Cohn said. “The disease acts very quickly and can kill a cat less than a week after it begins to show signs of being sick, so it is important to get treatment from a veterinarian as soon as the cat appears ill.”

Cohn says the best way for cat owners to prevent their cats from catching bobcat fever is to keep them indoors as much as possible. Early symptoms of the disease include sluggishness and refusal to eat. Pet owners who also have dogs should use tick collars, because while dogs are not susceptible to the disease, they can bring infected ticks into contact with house cats. Cohn says tick preventatives for cats also can help, but owners should be sure to check with their veterinarians to make sure they use cat-specific products, as tick collars for dogs can be harmful to cats.

Cohn says her future research involves creating a vaccine to protect cats against bobcat fever. Her work has been published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the Journal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the Journal of Veterinary Parasitology.