Pretty soon, I’ll stop writing about single reports of cats identified as infected with SARS-CoV-2. These cases aren’t surprising, and sporadic case reports don’t provide much new information. However, I’ll give a quick rundown of the latest case of an infected cat from Spain. It’s only reported in news articles, as far as I can find, so we have to be a bit wary of the info.
As expected, the cat lived in a household with COVID-19-infected people. The cat developed respiratory difficulties, and was ultimately euthanized. Low levels of SARS-CoV-2 were found in its nasal passages and an abdominal lymph node. But the cat also had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a potentially serious heart disease that can cause death.
This case raises concern about a severe SARS-CoV-2 infection in the cat, which would be different from the milder cases that have been previously reported. However, the cat’s underlying health issues could have accounted for its death, so it’s more likely that the cat had an incidental infection rather than a fatal SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Regardless, my assumption has been that we’re bound to see the odd case of serious disease in cats. I get some calls about suspicious cases, but we haven’t been able to test too many of them. Most infected cats probably don’t get sick at all or develop mild signs of illness (like people), but it’s reasonable to expect that a subset of infected cats (especially those with underlying health problems) could get more serious disease, but that’s likely rare. However, most cats exposed to infected people likely don’t even get infected.
As per all my other discussions, the key here is that if you social distance pets (as we do people), then the risk that a pet would bring this virus into the household is very low.