A cat seems to have the coronavirus in Belgium. This, being the first case in cats but not in animals, suggests that the virus can be caught by animals. Still,there is no proof that cats or any other animal have the ability to spread the virus. It is very probable that the cat got SARS-CoV-2 from his owner. The cat’s owner had traveled to Italy just a week before the cat and had started to feel rather ill. The cat’s excrement was examined and sent to a lab that determined that it indeed had high levels of the COVID 19 in its genetic material. Even though the results were positive, they could be faulty by the fact that it was the owner that collected the samples and it was also him that took the samples to the lab. The cat recovered after 9 days and it is still in quarantine. After the cat is released researchers plan to examine it, looking for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies which would give them a more certain positive that the cat was indeed infected by the virus.
Even if the cat tests positive for the COVID 19 antibodies, it might be almost impossible to prove that it was that virus that made the cat sick. There are a lot of pathogens that make cats vomit and have respiratory complications, making it really hard for scientists to isolate the single cause for the cat’s symptoms. The only thing that keeps scientists researching this particular case is the unusual amount of the virus present in the excrement. Another factor that contributes to the possibility of the cat having SARS-CoV-2 is the fact that the virus zeroes in a protein called angiotensin to hack into cells. Cats and humans have versions of that same protein — almost identical. For example, in the SARS outbreak a few decades ago, the same happened with cats and SARS. Cats and humans had a similar protein that the virus used to hijack our cells and it was shown to infect cats, though cats didn’t develop any symptoms.
While all the research gives off some unknowns about how the virus affects our pets and animals in general, people shouldn’t panic. Cases in pets have been extremely rare and if the COVID 19 were to be serious problems to pets, we would already know.