Researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted a study on the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in pet dogs and cats. Antibodies are an indicator of past coronavirus infection.
The study results, published in the journal Virulence, found that cats are more susceptible to coronavirus infection than dogs.
An article on the study in The New York Times notes that, fortunately, cats tend to show minor symptoms, even though they are more readily infected.
The researchers theorize that in households where humans test positive, pets may become infected from close contact with us.
Out of 100 pet cats that visited a local veterinary clinic for any reason, blood samples showed that about 5% had coronavirus antibodies. Almost none of the dogs did.
Further testing found an overall antibody percentage of 8% in cats and 1% in dogs. Why are cats more susceptible?
A protein on the surface of cells called ACE2 is a receptor for the coronavirus. The genetic makeup of feline ACE2 is more like ours, while dogs are less similar.
Feline behavior may also play a role, with other studies noting that close contact like sleeping in our beds and getting cuddles and kisses may also be a factor.
For safety, vets recommend that you refrain from close physical contact with your pets, especially cats, if you become infected. Check out these Covid FAQs for pet owners from the American Veterinary Medical Association for more information.