The World Health Organization has announced that it plans to examine the transmission of the novel coronavirus between humans and pets.
This has been prompted by a scientific study which found that among domestic animals, cats and ferrets can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.
Researchers in China have been identifying animals vulnerable to the virus, so that they can begin to test experimental vaccines.
Dogs, pigs, and poultry animals such as chicken and ducks are not likely to catch the virus.
So far, evidence has shown that pets are not likely to be carriers of the disease, but certain animals (like cats and ferrets) can become infected more easily than others.
Researchers studying cats have found that they can transmit it to each other via respiratory droplets. The disease is more severe in cats than in ferrets. Experts suggest that surveillance of cats can aid in the prevention of COVID-19.
What does this mean for cat owners?
“What these data do provide is support for the recommendation that people who are with COVID-19 should be distancing themselves, not only from other household members but also from their household pets, so as not to transmit the virus to their pets, particularly to cats or other felines,” said one infectious disease expert.
The WHO confirms that pets are not playing a role in transmission, but warns that some pets are at risk of becoming infected from humans.
The WHO’s top emergencies expert offers this important reminder about pets: Do not retaliate against animals during the outbreak. “They’re beings in their own right and they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. They are victims like the rest of us,” he said.