Scientists at Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies (LLU) have taken keen interest in studying the progression of coronavirus in cats, after it was discovered that not a single cat in Latvia has tested positive despite many possessing antibodies. For the record, cats are the most popular pet in Latvia, which has the second highest percentage of cat ownership per household per capita across Europe.
Reportedly, felines, from domestic cats to big cats like lions, can catch COVID-19, however, they seem to recover at a very fast rate as compared to humans. Subsequently, not a single cat in Latvia has tested positive for the virus. However, many have been tested positive for antibodies, indicating that they had been infected at some point.
This encouraged LLU researchers to test 130 different cats, from animal shelters and from homes where people tested positive for COVID-19. Their findings have shown that cats not only caught and overcome the virus, but even developed a way to combat it.
Speaking of the matter, Prof. Kaspars Kovalenko, LLU Veterinary Medicine Faculty, has stated that cats can spread the virus for a very short duration, because even in events of close contact with a positive person wherein the cats showed clinical signs; the inflammation of the upper respiratory pathways, there were no signs of Sars Cov-2 RNA in cat respiratory samples.
Additionally, in certain cases, antibodies were detected. In total, Kovalenko explained that even if cats show symptoms, they do so for only two to three days. Post which, they show excellent signs of recovery.
However, it is not clear why cats resist the virus so well, scientists theorize it to be congenital immunity or another genetic factor. Ultimately, this is the question scientists want to answer, and the reason they are studying recovered cat patients.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several animal species susceptible to catch coronavirus, including cattle, pigs, ferrets, tree shrews, hamsters and minks. But for the researchers at LLU, cats are the most important species to study. Explaining the reason for the same, LLU's Dr. Gundega Murniece stated that as cats are often in very close contact with their humans and are a connection to a household with a foreign environment.