How to save & take care of a kitten and feral cats - an advocacy tool kit

COVID-19 Guide: You & Your Pet Cat

Guide/How-to| Disaster Response

Answers to your Questions & Helpful Checklists

Published: April 2020
Most Recently Updated: August 2021

We at Alley Cat Allies want to make sure that you have the information you need about pet cats during this time of COVID-19 – including if you become unable to care for your cats. Below you’ll find answers based on information from leading animal and human health experts to questions about how to care for your cats in the midst of the COVID-19 health crisis. In addition to questions and answers, we have two checklists for pet owners that you may find helpful.

Our goal is to get good common-sense advice to you and to clear up misconceptions. This is a rapidly evolving situation in which new information is continually becoming available.  We will update this page across time.

Get Vaccinated to Save Lives

If you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine, we strongly recommend you do so as soon as possible. Getting vaccinated will protect you, your family—including its animal members—and the cats and kittens you care for.

You should know:

  • Cats CAN contract COVID-19 through contact with infected people. When you are vaccinated, they are safer.
  • In addition to adhering to local mandates, keep informed about the COVID-19 threat in your area. If COVID-19 cases are rising where you live, consider taking extra precautions.

Can a cat give me COVID-19?

There is nothing to indicate that cats can infect humans with COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, “at this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people.”

Echoing this, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) states:

“The current pandemic is being sustained through human-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
“There is no evidence that companion animals are playing an epidemiological role in the spread of human infections of SARS-CoV-2.”
“There is no justification in taking measures which may compromise the welfare of companion animals.” 

We want to emphasize this: For all the millions of cats and kittens who share our homes or whom we feed outdoors in our communities there has been not one confirmed case of cat-to-human COVID-19 transmission.

There is no need to be wary of the cats in your home. No major health organization has found any evidence that cats can give humans  COVID-19.

Can a person infected with COVID-19 give it to a cat?

Current evidence suggests yes, humans can transmit COVID-19 to cats. According to the USDA, “it appears that [the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 in people] can spread from people to animals in some situations. A small number of animals worldwide, have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.”

Alley Cat Allies is watching this topic very closely and will provide updates as we have them. Based on information from experts, though cats can contract COVID-19 from people, it is rare and symptoms are nearly always mild.

To put things in perspective, the USDA reports that as of August 2021, 97 cats and 86 dogs had confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the United States. There have been 36.6 million cases of people in the U.S. in that same timeframe. While there are mitigating factors, including lack of animal testing, COVID-19 is a primarily human disease that rarely affects animals.

And for the companion animals who were confirmed to have contracted the virus, as the CDC puts it, “most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets appears to be extremely rare.”

The same rules apply for interactions with your pets as with other people– if you have COVID-19, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or otherwise suspect that you might have COVID-19, you should isolate yourself within your home from other members of your family, including your pets. This reduces the risk that you could spread COVID-19 to your cats and other loved ones.

Research is underway to determine how easily transmitted COVID-19 is from humans to cats, and to determine how common it is for infected cats to experience COVID-19 symptoms. Based on the current information we have, we are cautiously optimistic that the risks COVID-19 presents to cats are limited.

We think the most reasonable approach is a calm, ongoing assessment of the situation coupled with common sense advice to avoid interaction with your pets if you have or suspect you have COVID-19.

If I get sick, can I keep caring for my pet cat?

If you have COVID-19, have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or otherwise suspect that you have COVID-19, you should distance yourself from family members, including the furry ones.

The CDC recommends:

“If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), you should avoid contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, sharing food, and sleeping in the same bed.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wear a mask and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.”

If I get sick, should I give up my pet to a shelter?

Ideally, no. Far too many shelters are stressful, dangerous places for cats even in the best of times. Currently, many shelters are struggling with decreased staff and increased animal admissions resulting from highly limited spay and neuter surgery appointments since the pandemic began.

If you are sick (or suspected of being sick with COVID-19), it is best to have someone else care for your cat(s). This can be done either:

  • At your home by a friend or family member as you remain safely isolated in a room away from your cat(s); or
  • By a friend or family member taking your cat(s) to their home until you are well.

If there is nobody who can help, follow the CDC guidelines in the section above to care for your cat as safely as possible.

Right now, each of us still in good health should connect and map out a plan with a person, or two, or three who could care for our pets in the event that we become ill. Try starting a discussion with a friend or neighbor, and potentially offer a mutual agreement if they have pets as well.

Steps to take now if you cannot care for your pet cats

If you become seriously sick or cannot provide for your pet cats for any other reason, below are steps you should take and a checklist to help you prepare.

  • Find backup caregivers: Enlist at least two – preferably more – people who can care for your pets should you become unable to do so. These could be family members, friends, your veterinarian, a boarding facility, a local rescue group that fosters cats, or your local shelter. Talk to them now about your plans so they can be prepared.
  • Create a document with important information including:
    • Your contact information and the contact information of any backup caregivers for your pet.
    • Your veterinarian’s contact information as well as the information of anyone who can make decisions for you.
    • Your pets’ names and descriptions (photos are ideal).
    • Medications your pets require plus instructions on dosage and frequency.
    • Your pets’ vaccination records.
    • What your pets normally eat.
  • Create a to-go kit: This should be ready to hand off to a backup caregiver so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. Put the supplies and documents in a box or duffel bag so everything is handy.
    • Your “document with important information” from above.
    • Two weeks’ worth of food.
    • Food and water dishes.
    • Two to four weeks’ worth of required medications.
    • A blanket and/or toy with your cats’ scent to help them adjust to a new environment if necessary.