April 14: MIT Medical answers your COVID-19 questions. Got a question about COVID-19? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to provide an answer.
I have an older indoor cat. Can I give her the COVID-19 virus if I don’t have any symptoms? She is not in contact with other pets or people.
Human-to-feline COVID-19 transmission has been in the news recently, including a story about a 4-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo that became ill and tested positive for the virus, apparently after coming into contact with an infected zookeeper, and a domestic cat in Belgium that contracted the virus from its owner.
While there is no evidence that cats can give the virus to humans, it’s clear that humans can spread the virus to cats. So, if you have received a positive test for COVID-19, the CDC recommends isolating yourself from everyone, including pets, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. If you can, ask someone else to look in on your cat while you isolate, or invest in an automatic feeder to minimize your contact until your period of isolation is over.
If you have not been tested for COVID-19, don’t have symptoms, and you’ve been practicing social distancing and good hygiene, you can safely interact with cats and other pets. It’s worth noting that while a recent study in Science documented that cats and ferrets are more susceptible to contracting the illness from humans, the virus does not replicate well in dogs, pigs, chickens, or ducks, so if your fur baby is a Shiba Inu or your feather baby is a Rhode Island Red, you have even less to fear.