SARS-CoV-2 does not have any host preferences. The virus has spread from humans to pets, livestock, and even wild animals since it first appeared in our species.
Cats seem to be more prone to COVID infection, despite the fact that they frequently don’t exhibit any symptoms and are unlikely to be able to transmit the virus back to humans. There seems to be little transmission, even between individuals.
However, if SARS-CoV-2 is covertly spreading among our pets, there’s always a potential it may mutate into something much more terrible and move from home to home via a neighborhood of feral cats and dogs.
Because of this, several researchers are attempting to track COVID variations in domestic pets. And it appears that there isn’t anything to worry about, at least for the time being.
A recent study details the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 in a domestic house cat in southeast Pennsylvania in September 2021. Following genomic analysis, the infection was discovered to be the Delta variation AY.3, which was also in circulation at the time among local humans.
This sadly demonstrates that newer COVID variations (at least up to Delta) are still spreading to our dogs. On the plus side, the findings here indicate that the virus may not be much changing in our feline friends.
Less than 5% of the 4,200 human coronavirus samples sequenced in Delaware, Pennsylvania, contained any of the 10 single nucleotide variations discovered in the sample from the domestic cat.
Seven of these ten mutations were quiet, which means they had no noticeable effects.
Veterinarian Elizabeth Lennon from the University of Pennsylvania says, “When we looked at a random sampling of human sequences from our geographic area, there wasn’t anything notably distinctive about our cat’s sample.” We came to the conclusion that the cat had not been infected by a virus that was notably unique.
In the US, domestic cats have a delta variant for the first time thanks to this study.
However, the scientists learned about another cat from Virginia that had contracted the AY.3 variety about a month earlier at the time of their research.
Despite the small sample size, both AY.3 genomes from cats exhibited less single nucleotide variations than those from humans, which is encouraging.
The authors state that a bigger dataset is required to draw this conclusion, however some of these mutations “may be concentrated in samples from cats.”
Fascinatingly, a fecal test successfully identified SARS-CoV-2 in the domestic cat from Pennsylvania whereas a nasal swab failed to do so.
This could indicate that various species have distinct physical reservoirs for the virus, or it could simply mean that the cat was examined after the infection had spread from its nose to its butt.
For example, some COVID-infected persons continue to exhibit positive fecal samples on average for more than 11 days after their respiratory tract test findings become undetectable.
John Lennon noted, “This did highlight the need for sampling at various body sites.
We wouldn’t have discovered this if we had only swabbed our noses.
The cat had been experiencing anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, and mushy stools for several days when it was brought in for medical attention.
Only 11 days before, its owner had become ill with SARS-CoV-2; however, they had been avoiding their pet ever since for fear of spreading the illness to them.
We don’t know how the cat got infected or what about its infection caused the virus to jump over the species barrier since by the time the cat was discovered to have COVID, it was too late to obtain a swab from the pet owner to compare the two viral infections.
The fact that this is the first confirmed case of a cat contracting the AY.3 lineage implies that we shouldn’t get comfortable thinking that our pets are immune to transmission.
The major message from this is that SARS-CoV-2 appears to be maintaining its capacity to infect a variety of species as new forms of the virus evolve, according to Lennon.
The SARS-CoV-2 itself is most likely developed from diseases in bats or pangolins that are closely related. The virus started to evolve as soon as it jumped to people and swiftly spread. Due to some of the alterations, animals who previously couldn’t contract the virus, including deer mice, can now.
Any viral reservoir poses a threat to people and other animals because COVID is a dynamic disease. Even though cats don’t currently seem to be the primary cause of mutations or transmission, this may not always be the case.