The World Health Organization is studying cats’ response to SARS-CoV-2 exposure following reports that tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo fell ill after contact with an asymptomatic employee who had COVID-19. Pets, including cats, do not play a role in transmission to pet owners. However, cats may become sick after contact with an infected person. A study published in Science found that ferrets and cats are susceptible to illness caused by the virus, but dogs, chickens, pigs and ducks are not vulnerable.

Veterinary associations around the world advise cat owners who may have been exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms or test positive with the virus should keep their cats indoors and restrict contact just as they would with other people. Other friends or family should take care of the cat’s needs until the pet owner is fully recovered. Wash hands (for 20 seconds with soap and hot water) before and after touching pets as well as food and water bowls.

What Can I Do to Help My Cat During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Spend quality time with your cat! When we are so busy with our ‘normal’ daily lives, our pets don’t get as much of us as they would like. Every cloud has its silver lining, right? What a great opportunity we have to spend quality time with our pets! Talking to and petting your cat will help you feel better. Many studies have shown that comfort contact with pets lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of anxiety and stress.

Play with your cat! Play is a stress relieving activity for all of us, including our pets. Cats have different play styles, just like people do, so if you don’t know by now see what type of play is most appealing to your kitty. Some cats like toys, other cats prefer to play with other cats or even dogs and people. Some cats like to chase moving toys (laser pointers, balls) and other cats want to grab at something (feather sticks, poles with dangling toys). Give it a try!

Make meal time fun! Instead of free feeding your cat (food always available), distinct feeding times become activities to which your cat can look forward. Feed your cat twice daily and remove any uneaten portion to help maintain a healthy weight (or help them to lose some extra layers). Put some of the food in a feeding toy, or toss a portion of it for them to chase up and down the hallway or even up and down the stairs. Food is fun!

Keep your spirits up by focusing on the ones you love. Make this a positive time to find comfort and joy.

This is the gift of being a pet parent. Be well.