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Few of us here in the UK can fail to have noticed the significant amount of news coverage that’s being given at present to a strain of coronavirus known as Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or Wuhan coronavirus, which is a new type of respiratory illness that hasn’t before been seen in humans.
This is just one type of coronavirus, and is a new or novel one; but there are many other types of coronavirus too, and this is a virus that has been around in various forms for several decades now, with some types of it being well known as infectious to people.
The Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) variant has been making the news of late because this is the first time this strain of the virus has been confirmed as infecting humans, which means that it has jumped the species divide for the first time to pose a threat to human health. Researchers aren’t totally sure yet what species of animal was first affected by this variant of the disease or what other vectors carried it, although both seafood and snakes have shouldered some of the blame so far; whether this turns out to be correct or not.
However, what we do know is that Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), also sometimes known as the Wuhan Coronavirus due to its origins in China, has infected over 7,000 people to date (February 2020) and resulted in over 170 deaths.
All of this is concerning of course, albeit so far Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) seems like a remote threat to our shores; but as many cat owners will be aware, cats can catch coronavirus too. Coronavirus in cats tends to cause only very mild, if any, symptoms in affected cats. At worst, this tends to be a bout of diarrhoea lasting a few days, and many cats don’t become ill when the catch the virus at all. In very rare cases, affected cats might develop an unusual immune response to coronavirus, which causes the condition to escalate and is often fatal, but this is highly unsual.
That said, given that coronavirus is very much in the news at the moment and has caused well over a hundred human deaths to far, it is natural that some cat owners might be wondering “can you catch coronavirus from your cat?” And associated questions, like whether or not cats can catch and transmit the same type of coronavirus that is causing so many problems at present.
With this in mind, this article will tell you the answer to the questions, “can your cat give you coronavirus,” and “can cats carry Wuhan coronavirus?” Read on to learn more.
So, let’s start with the basics: Can cats catch Wuhan coronavirus in the first place? The answer to this is no; Wuhan coronavirus has not been identified as contagious to cats. Whilst viruses can sometimes (very occasionally) change and mutate to cross a species divide (as has happened with the Wuhan coronavirus and humans) this is very uncommon, and there have been no cases of Wuhan coronavirus in domestic cats as a species, felis domesticus, or any other cat species so far.
Naturally there is a huge amount of research going into finding the roots of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, and even given this spotlight, it is being in no way associated with cats of any type, far less domestic ones!
There are, on the other hand, two different strains of coronavirus that cats can catch and pass from cat to cat, and both of these have been around in the feline population for decades.
These two strains are feline enteric coronavirus and feline infectious peritonitis respectively. Whilst they both fall into the same family of viruses as any other form of coronavirus, they’re not strains or variants of the Wuhan version, which cats cannot catch.
When it comes to the types of coronavirus cats can catch, can humans catch coronavirus from their cats? No. Whilst some forms of coronavirus are zoonotic (can spread across different animal species) neither of the two types of coronavirus that cats can catch and spread can be caught by humans.
So even if your cat had coronavirus, they could not give it to you.
Coronavirus in cats is not vaccinated against, as it is not a significant threat to feline health and doesn’t make most cats very sick. Whilst theoretically there is a vaccine available for coronavirus in cats, it is not given to cats as standard and is not generally considered to be necessary.
Feline enteric coronavirus is mild and transient, and often doesn’t cause any sickness or problems for cats that catch it. However, in rare cases, feline enteric coronavirus can cause an inappropriate response from the immune system of infected cats, resulting in the development of the second type of feline coronavirus: feline infectious peritonitis.
This is very unusual and uncommon, and most cats that catch coronavirus only ever catch the much milder form, which is often completely harmless.
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