Could cats help stop the coronavirus pandemic?

Coronavirus in cats
Photo via Mohamed Aymen Bettaieb/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Since the United States recorded its first cases of coronavirus, little has been learned about how COVID-19 can impact pets and pet owners. New research shows it’s unlikely that humans could be infected by their pets, and cats could even help scientists stop the coronavirus pandemic

Researchers at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences found that cats developed a “robust immune response” to the coronavirus. In their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, cats developed a strong immunity to COVID-19 and did not get reinfected. This immune response could assist scientists in studying cats in the development of a vaccine.

As the study notes: “We report that cats are highly susceptible to infection, with a prolonged period of oral and nasal viral shedding that is not accompanied by clinical signs, and are capable of direct contact transmission to other cats. These studies confirm that cats are susceptible to productive SARS-CoV-2 infection, but are unlikely to develop clinical disease. Further, we document that cats developed a robust neutralizing antibody response that prevented reinfection following a second viral challenge.”

Researchers studied both cats and dogs, and found that cats showed a stronger immune response compared to other animals. Scientists aren’t sure why cats develop such a strong immune response or how long that immunity will last.

It’s rare for domestic animals to be used as models during scientific experiments, but given the immune responses observed in this study, researchers say it’s possible

The report shows that while animals can contract coronavirus and spread it to other animals, they are unlikely to get sick or show symptoms. Additionally, there is no proof animals can spread COVID-19 to humans. To protect your pets, researchers recommend keeping cats indoors and practicing social distancing even with pets.

Sources: Fox News, Smithsonian Magazine, CDC, Inverse

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