Health officials in Belgium say a pet cat appears to have contracted COVID-19 from her owner, though they emphasized human-to-pet transmission seems to be extremely rare.
“Recently, the veterinary medicine faculty in Liège reported that a coronavirus infection has been determined in a cat,” virologist Steven Van Gucht said at a Federal Public Service Health press conference on Friday, The Brussels Times reported. “The cat lived with her owner, who started showing symptoms of the virus a week before the cat did.”
The cat had diarrhea and breathing trouble, and researchers subsequently found the novel coronavirus ― SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease COVID-19 ― in her feces. As of Saturday, both cat and owner were reportedly doing well.
“We want to stress that this is an isolated case,” Van Gucht said. “Additionally, in this case, we are talking about a human-to-animal transmission, not the other way around. There are no indications that this is common. The risk of animal-to-human transmission is very small.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Jane Sykes, chief veterinary medical officer at the University of California, Davis. Cats and dogs, she said, may be “dead-end” hosts for the virus, meaning they could become infected but don’t shed enough of the virus to transmit it to humans or other animals.
So far, there are no known cases of pets transmitting the virus to people, but there’s not enough data to tell for sure if that’s possible. But generally, “you’re more likely to get infected from another person,” Sykes told HuffPost.
Previously, two dogs in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus and were asymptomatic. At least one of those dogs tested “weakly positive,” leading some experts to believe the dog could be merely carrying traces of the virus in its nose or fur, rather than being truly infected. But Sykes said the levels of virus found in the cat, plus the cat’s symptoms, suggest true infection, but noted...