Dear Christopher Cat
Did I hear correctly that cats can get SARS?
Yes and no.
Scientists researching SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, found that the SARS coronavirus which causes the disease in humans can be transmitted to domestic cats and ferrets.
But the virus usually doesn’t make cats sick – more proof that we cats are a superior species.
If the name coronavirus sounds familiar, it’s probably because other coronaviruses cause diarrhea and feline infectious peritonitis.
In the SARS study, drops containing coronavirus from a person who had died of SARS were put into cats’ and ferrets’ eyes, noses and tracheas (wind pipes.) Within 28 days, the infected animals produced antibodies.
The infected cats and ferrets transmitted the virus to previously uninfected animals housed with them. All of this suggests that we cats may be able to play a role in helping to develop a vaccine to prevent the disease in humans.
It’s not clear whether an infected cat can transmit the disease to a human.
In any event, my advice is to keep your cat’s immune system healthy by housing your cat indoors, feeding high quality food and, most importantly, having your veterinarian examine your cat and talk with you about preventive health care at least once every year.