CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR CAT DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK?

With the entire world going into shut down due to coronavirus in the last few weeks, there are obvious concerns about public events, our animals and contagion. There have been reports of people abandoning their animals for fear of getting sick. This is a huge misconception and will put an immense amount of pressure on welfare who are already inundated with rescue cases. Let’s address some facts before we delve into how this affects our animals.

Firstly, COVID19 is a novel coronavirus much like the flu and not the same as feline coronavirus. From the CDC website: “A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

What is the source of the virus? Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. “

The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person.”

Amid local and worldwide panic, pet owners have much concern over whether their animals can contract or spread COVID-19. According to the World Health Organisation “At present, there is no evidence that companion animals / pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus, however, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.”

“There were initial reports from the Government of Hong Kong that a dog had tested “weak positive” for COVID-19 after nasal and oral cavity samples were taken. The dog “ showed the presence of genetic material from the COVID-19 virus,” and that it was “not showing any clinical signs of the disease.”

Aurora Lambrecht from End FIP and the FIP Advisory Group explains“Both the World Small Animal Veterinary Assocation (WSAVA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have given assurances that neither dogs nor cats will get sick with COVID-19 and said they are not carriers of the virus either, meaning they cannot make us sick. Coronaviruses are the largest family of viruses. They are also characterised by the fact that they are host-specific, meaning they infect closely related species only – and cats and humans are not that! FCov (Feline Coronavirus) belongs to the Coronaviradae species, subspecies alpha-coronavirus whereas COVID-19 is subspecies beta-coronavirus and this makes them genetically exclusionary. People cannot be infected by FCov and felines cannot be infected with COVID-19, or any other species specific coronavirus. 

Feline Coronavirus is a virus of the gastrointestinal tract while COVID-19 is a respiratory infection. Mode of transmission and infection are dissimilar as well. FCov is via the faecal oral route while COVID-19 is via aerosol droplets and oronasal cavity.”

So with this in mind, there is no reason to believe that your animals will be able to get the virus and spread it to other humans. There is still a contact contamination risk with those animals exposed to or owned by COVID-19 sufferers, although the virus does not live very long outside of the body in the environment and cannot be carried by cats and dogs – studies have shown that it may live up to a few hours or few days on some SURFACES if not disinfected but this depends largely on the temperature, the kind of surface and the humidity index.

IS IT SAFE TO VISIT A CAT BREEDER?

There may not appear to be any major risk out of the ordinary in visiting a breeders home, but it is best at this stage to practice social-distancing which means avoid visiting other people and stay home. The important thing to remember is to practice good hygiene and limit contact with the animals as you may bring in germs unknowingly or pick them up in the breeder’s home – this includes fungal spores, bacteria and other viral components in addition to coronavirus. It is important to keep this in mind because if you are the cause of an illness in the Breeder’s home, it may be more difficult during the coronavirus outbreak to get an appointment at a vet, to be able to get certain medications to treat the cat, vets may have reduced their hours and staff, and people want to avoid going into medical facilities for fear of viral spread. In many countries, cat and dog shows have been cancelled due to the high risk of community spread and with many people travelling in and out of areas that may be affected by the virus. There are ways you can visit with a breeder virtually rather than attending a cat show or going to their house. Video calling is a great way to see your kitten and chat to the breeder “in person”. Live-calling does help a lot if you are worried about scams as you can ask to see kittens, the parents and the environment during the call.

At this time, it is also important to remember that your kitten’s travel plans to their new home may be halted or postponed. Discuss this with your kitten’s breeder and determine when the time would be safe for you the kitten to travel or for you to collect him/her. This is completely outside of the breeders’ control and one must understand that they will put the kitten’s safety above your needs. One does not want to risk kittens ending up in quarantine in a neighboring state or country. Rather be safe and wait a few extra weeks.

DISINFECTANTS AND CLEANERS CAN POSE A RISK TO YOUR CAT

With everyone ramping up their cleaning regime at home, it is important to remember that cats lack certain enzymes, which makes them sensitive to some chemicals. While disinfection is of the utmost importance, one must remember to remove cats from a room you are cleaning and allow them access only after an hour or so to allow chemicals to evaporate or dissipate from surfaces and the air first. Cats can be poisoned via a number of routes: contamination of the digestive system can result from the ingestion of a toxic substance, ingestion of poisoned prey, or from grooming contaminated fur. Some toxins are absorbed directly through the skin, particularly the paws, and a few toxins can cause damage by inhalation. As cats are fastidious groomers, any skin or hair exposure can quickly result in the poison being ingested as a result of grooming.

HARMFUL CHEMICALS INCLUDE

Lysol – Phenol
Chlorine-based Bleach
Ammonia – Found in drain cleaner, oven cleaners and surface cleaners
Glycol Ethers – Used as solvents in paint, some cleaners, perfumes and air fresheners
Formaldehyde / Methanol – alcohol based cleaners
Phthalates – found in a wide variety of products such as shampoo, aftershave, perfumes, personal care products, nail polish, etc
Lauryl sulfate – found in various soaps and laundry detergents
Any cleaner that contains a strong essential-oil or pine-oil component
Potpourri
Insecticides & Rat Poison

Some safe alternatives for cleaning and disinfection include hydrogen-peroxide solution, vinegar, baking soda, enzymatic cleaners, veterinary cleaners and disinfectants (that are deemed safe for animals), bacteria-based cleaners, and diatoms can be used for insects. Do your research and remember to always remove your cat from the area you are cleaning for a period of time.