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: January 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.

How should I prepare for quarantine with my cat?

Make sure you have a two-to-four-week supply of food, litter, and any medications your cat requires. If you have trouble affording cat food, please see this state-by-state list of pet food banks on our website. We are updating this resource frequently.

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….Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.”

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?

We are still learning about this virus, but it appears in some cases, yes. According to USDA reporting, by the end of 2020, there had been 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in cats and 38 in dogs in the United States.  The CDC says it “appears that [COVID-19] can spread from people to animals in some situations.”

Alley Cat Allies is watching this topic very closely and will provide updates as we have them. To put things in perspective, 54 confirmed cases is a tiny number of cats infected compared to the 21 million cases in people in the U.S. by the end of 2020.  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.”

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. We are cautiously optimistic after nearly a year since the pandemic began in the U.S. that the risks COVID-19 presents to cats are fairly limited.

We think 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 is the most reasonable path forward.

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 OIE recommends, “When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals. If they must look after their pet, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible.”

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

Ideally, no. Shelters are stressful, scary places for cats in the best of times, and many shelters are now struggling with decreased staff and increased animal admissions.

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 this is not possible, the OIE recommends that infected people, “should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible” while caring for their pets.

Right now, each of us still in good health should think of a contingency plan for who could care for our pets in the event that we become ill. If you cannot think of anyone, you might consider reaching out to friends and neighbors. We have heard many heartwarming stories of neighbors helping each other during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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.