First Case of Human-to-Cat Transmission

Live Science reports Cat Infected with COVID-19 from Owner in Belgium.

A domestic cat in Belgium has been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that's spreading across the globe, the government's FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment announced March 27, according to news reports.

This is the first human-to-cat transmission of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). About a week after its owner got sick with COVID-19, after returning from a trip to Northern Italy, the cat developed coronavirus symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory issues, Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.

The owner sent samples of vomit and feces to Dr. Daniel Desmecht's lab at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Liège. Genetic tests showed high levels of SARS-CoV-2 in those samples, he said. "The cat recovered after 9 days," Van Gucht said.

In humans, scientists have figured out that the SARS-CoV-2 virus attaches to a receptor protein called ACE2 that's on the outside of respiratory cells. Once inside of these cells, the virus hijacks certain machinery so it can replicate. 

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"The feline ACE2 protein resembles the human ACE2 homologue, which is most likely the cellular receptor which is being used by Sars-CoV-2 for cell entry," Van Gucht said.

During the 2003 SARS outbreak, cats were infected with a coronavirus as well, Van Gucht said. 

Pertinent Thought

Given that receptors appear to be the same, if humans can infect cats, then it's logical to presume cats can infect humans.

Questions of the Day

  • Does your cat wear a mask?
  • Is your cat social distancing?
  • Are you maintaining proper social distance from your cat?

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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