Case report suggests SARS-CoV-2 transmission from cat owners to cat to veterinarian

A case report and genetic analysis suggest that a father and son in Thailand transmitted the SARS-CoV-2 virus to their cat, and then the cat transmitted the virus to a veterinarian.

The cases occurred in August 2021, and the case report was published online June 9 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

In August 2021, according to the case report, a 32-year-old son and 64-year-old father from Bangkok who had COVID-19 were transferred to the hospital at Prince of Songkla University because of the lack of hospital beds in Bangkok. The men and their cat were transported by an ambulance in a 20-hour trip of more than 500 miles.

Sneezing cat
In Thailand, a cat whose two owners had COVID-19 sneezed in the face of a veterinarian, who later became symptomatic and tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The cat was sent to the university’s veterinary hospital for an examination and found to be clinically normal. During nasal swabbing, the sedated cat sneezed in the face of one of three veterinarians. All three veterinarians were wearing disposable gloves and N95 respirator masks, but not face shields or eye goggles. The entire encounter lasted about 10 minutes.

The veterinarian who was sneezed on, a 32-year-old woman who lived alone in a dormitory on campus, became symptomatic three days later and sought medical consultation another two days later, when test results for the cat returned positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The researchers found that genome sequences of the virus from the son and the father as well as the cat and the veterinarian were identical but were distinct from genome sequences of the virus from other patients in Songkhla Province at the time.

According to the conclusions of the case report, “to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to cat, persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should refrain from contact with their cat. Eye protection as part of the standard personal protection is advisable for caregivers during close interactions with cats suspected to be infected.”