Researchers Say Human COVID Infections Can Be Passed on to Pets — Especially Cats

Researchers and experts recommend that COVID-19 patients limit exposure to their pets in the same way they would other members of the household, after a study showed that about two-thirds of pets in homes with COVID exposure had antibodies

Dog And Cat Relaxing On Sofa
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Cats and dogs kept as pets are more likely to contract COVID-19 as compared to their stray counterparts, according to new research.

In a recent study published earlier this month, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, compared COVID-19 exposure between household pets to shelter animals and stray cats.

For the study, the group collected and tested 48 cats and 54 dogs from 77 different homes where there had been a positive COVID-19 case in the nine months prior.

Researchers then looked at those results and compared them to those of 75 dogs and cats living in an animal shelter and 75 stray cats that had been seen at a veterinary clinic.

According to the data collected, 67 percent of pet cats and more than 43 percent of pet dogs tested positive for antibodies — a sign of past COVID-19 infection — compared to 9 percent of canines and felines from the animal shelter.

When looking at the number of cats infected, the findings then lowered to 3 percent for the stray cats.

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In general, most cases seen within the dogs looked at were mild, with the most common symptom being the loss of appetite, the study found.

More than a quarter of the cats, meanwhile, exhibited runny noses and had difficulty breathing, per the study. Three cats also developed severe symptoms.

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Within the study, researchers also discovered that time a pet owner spent with their canine companion did not have an effect on the pet getting COVID-19, while it was the opposite for cats.

The more time cats spent with their owners who contracted COVID-19, the more likely they were to be infected, the study said, also singling out cats who slept on their owner's bed as having a higher risk of obtaining the illness.

Lead study author Dr. Dorothee Bienzle, a professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, told NBC News that people who get COVID-19 should protect their pets in ways such as wearing a mask and avoiding contact with their pets as much as possible.

"At this point, we should assume that if we get infected, that our pets are susceptible, too, and they should be treated as any other household member," she told the outlet.

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