Researchers in The Netherlands have warned that domestic cats may play a role in the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – the agent that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“Domestic cats are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, and given that they are in close contact with people, assessing the potential risk cats represent for the transmission and maintenance of SARS-CoV-2 is important,” writes the team from Wageningen University and Wageningen Bioveterinary Research.
Jose Gonzales and colleagues reviewed studies that investigated cat-to-cat SARS-CoV-2 transmission either experimentally or under natural conditions within infected households.
Data collated from these studies indicated that the SARS-CoV-2 reproduction number (R0) among the animals was significantly higher than 1, suggesting that cats may well play a role in the transmission and maintenance of the virus.
However, questions regarding the risk of human to-cat and cat-to-human transmission remain to be addressed, say the researchers.
“Further data on household transmission and data on virus levels in both the environment around infected cats and their exhaled air could be a step towards assessing these risks,” they write.
A pre-print version of the research paper is available on the bioRxiv* server, while the article undergoes peer review.