Scientists realized that even without showing symptoms of the disease, cats analyzed in the study had antibodies against Sars-CoV-2.
A study conducted at Huazhong Agricultural University in China reveals that cats are more susceptible to Covid-19 than previously thought.
The article, published last week in the journal Emerging Microbes & Infections, presents results of the analysis of blood, nasal and anal samples from 102 cats collected between January and March 2020.
Samples were collected from 46 cats abandoned in three animal shelters, 41 cats in five animal hospitals, and 15 cats from families with Covid-19.
Although none of the animals tested positive for the new coronavirus or had obvious symptoms of the infection, 15 of the blood samples indicated the presence of antibodies.
Of that group, 11 cats had neutralizing antibodies, proteins that bind to the virus and block infection.
The three cats with the highest levels of antibodies to Sars-CoV-2 belonged to families where at least one member was diagnosed with the disease.
“Although the infection in stray cats could not be fully understood, it is reasonable to speculate that these infections are probably due to the contact with SARS-CoV-2 polluted environment, or COVID-19 patients who fed the cats,” said study leader Meilin Jin.
“Therefore measures should be considered to maintain a suitable distance between COVID-19 patients and companion animals such as cats and dogs, and hygiene and quarantine measures should also be established for those high-risk animals.”
The researchers also found that the reaction produced by cats’ immune systems resembles those seen in seasonal infections by other coronaviruses, suggesting that they could be at risk of reinfection.
According to Jin, the study may serve as a reference for the clinical treatment and prevention of Covid-19, since this immune response is similar in humans.
The team says more research is needed to establish the route of transmission of Covid-19 between humans and cats.
“Retrospective investigation confirmed that all of antibody positive samples were taken after the outbreak, suggesting that the infection of cats could be due to the virus transmission from humans to cats,” Jin concluded.