A cat in Belgium was infected with the novel coronavirus after coming in close contact with her owner, The Brussels Times reported Friday.
The cat isn’t the only animal known to be infected with COVID-19. Last month, Hong Kong health officials said a 17-year-old Pomeranian named Benny was quarantined at a government facility after repeatedly testing “weak positive” for coronavirus from oral and nasal samples.
The dog died three days after being released, and health professionals said the cause of death was old age and underlying illnesses.
It leaves many wondering whether pets can get sick or spread the coronavirus to their owners or anyone else.
Can cats or dogs get coronavirus?
There are many strands of coronavirus that can cause a wide variety of diseases.
According to Terry Ford, a veterinarian at North Dallas Veterinary Hospital, there are two types of coronaviruses in dogs: canine enteric coronavirus and canine respiratory coronavirus. Neither affects humans, Ford said.
Cats can get feline coronavirus, which is a common infection that can cause mild diarrhea.
Can I get the virus from my pet?
So far, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the coronavirus strain to humans or that they might be a source of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While it is rare, the CDC says, there are coronaviruses that can spread from animals to humans and between other people. It’s believed that the current outbreak originated from a live animal market in Wuhan, China.
However, the virus can survive on surfaces like countertops for several days. If a pet is exposed to a person with the virus, it is possible the animal can carry the virus on its coat, Ford said.
Can I pet my animal or anyone else’s?
It’s not a good idea to let other people pet your animal, and refrain from petting someone else’s to limit the risk of spreading the disease on their coats, Ford said. He also said that if you are quarantined at home, you should quarantine your pet as well.
Should we keep outdoor pets inside during the pandemic?
Keeping animals inside is a good idea unless you have them on a leash and keep them at the appropriate social distance from others, Ford said.
“Outside animals kept from being ‘at large’ will reduce the exposure to an animal or person exposed to COVID-19,” Ford said. “In other words, pets are like someone’s pillow with four legs.”
Is it possible for me to transmit the virus to my pet?
The CDC said it hasn’t received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with the virus. But there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans, according to the World Organization of Animal Health.
The organization has reported that two dogs have been infected with coronavirus following close contact with infected humans, but there is no evidence of pets becoming sick, even when infected.
I’m sick — how can I protect my pet?
The CDC says that if you’ve tested positive or believe that you may be sick, you should limit your interactions with both people and animals.
The CDC recommends that you have another member of your home take care of your pet, if possible. If that’s not possible, wash your hands before and after interacting with them, and avoid petting, snuggling, being licked by and sharing food with your pet.
I’m an essential worker. Can I use a dog walker to walk my dog or board my pet?
According to the Dallas County shelter-in-place order, health care operations, which include veterinary care and services provided to animals, are considered essential. That means dog walkers and pet boarding facilities can be used as long as employees maintain proper social distancing.