Health officials in Belgium have reported a case in which a pet cat appeared to have contracted coronavirus from her owner, though that emphasised 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 press conference in Belgium 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 diarrhoea and breathing trouble, and researchers subsequently found the novel coronavirus in her feaces. 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. 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.