Does having a cat in your house increase your risk of catching COVID-19?

Valerie Allendorf, Nicolai Denzin, Franz J. Conraths, Lisa A. Boden, François Elvinger, Ioannis Magouras, Arjan Stegeman, James L.N. Wood, Ana Carvajal Uruena, Katherine E.F. Grace, Katharina D.C. Stark

Due to the zoonotic origin of SARS-Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the potential for its transmission from humans back to animals and the possibility that it might establish ongoing infection pathways in other animal species has been discussed. Cats are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 and were shown experimentally to transmit the virus to other cats. Infection of cats has been widely reported. Domestic cats in COVID-19-positive households could therefore be a part of a human to animal to human transmission pathway. Here, we report the results of a qualitative risk assessment focusing on the potential of cat to human transmission in such settings. The assessment was based on evidence available by October 2021.

After the introduction of SARS-CoV-2 to a household by a human, cats may become infected and infected cats may pose an additional infection risk for other members of the household. In order to assess this additional risk qualitatively, expert opinion was elicited within the framework of a modified Delphi procedure. The conclusion was that the additional risk of infection of an additional person in a household associated with keeping a domestic cat is very low to negligible, depending on the intensity of cat-to-human interactions. The separation of cats from humans suffering from SARS-CoV-2 infection should contribute to preventing further transmission.

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