Not Wearing a Mask Could Hurt Your Cat

Even if coronavirus doesn’t make you sick, it could harm your cat

Photo by Borna Bevanda on Unsplash

As Covid-19 has spread across America, governments have increasingly responded by mandating the use of face masks. According to the National Review, states like Alabama have even gone so far as to threaten $500 fines for those that don’t comply. The CDC has now made mask wearing part of its official recommendations to prevent Covid-19.

As more and more jurisdictions move to mandate mask wearing, a portion of the population feels masks are an unreasonable encroachment on their personal liberties, or a threat to their own health. Others feel that masks will slow down the development of “herd immunity.” Writing in the Federalist, Joy Pullman says that “One of the many problems with [prevention measures] is that the nation needs people to keep getting coronavirus. That’s because coronavirus spread is a natural vaccine that protects those who survive…”

If you agree — and don’t mind getting the virus yourself — stop and ask yourself this: would you be okay with the virus hurting or killing your cat?

That’s right — coronavirus could potentially put your cat at risk of serious illness, or even death. On this topic, Fox News writes: “Heads up, cat lovers: Your feline friend may be susceptible to the novel coronavirus after all.” According to a study reported in the article, researchers found that cats can indeed catch the coronavirus. If they do, it can result in “massive lesions” in their nose, throats and lungs.

Fox News also confirms that cats can catch the disease from humans. This was the case for two cats in New York City who caught the disease from their owners. And once they have it, they can spread it to other cats. In a study published in May, infected cats easily transmitted the virus to other nearby cats. If you live in a multi-cat household and infect one of your cats, expect your others to get sick, too.

If you do spread the virus to your cat, what will happen? Fox News reports that “cats can show clinical signs of the disease.” According to the Epoch Times, symptoms are likely similar for cats and humans. A Belgian cat who became infected with the virus had “diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty breathing.”

A Spanish cat who contracted the virus died from it. He “was taken to a veterinary hospital with breathing difficulties, a temperature of 38.2c [100.7 F], low platelet levels, and heart failure.” He had to be put down. Fox News also reports that a dog who contracted the coronavirus died of the disease.

It’s possible that many infections in cats are mild. But it’s hard to tell how many cats might be dying of the disease, because testing of pets is extremely limited. According to a study in The Veterinary Record, “most veterinarians are not testing suspected cases” which suggests “that some diagnoses may be missed.”

Thousands of cats could be contracting the disease and suffering — even dying — from it, and owners might chalk it up to other causes, because testing is limited and veterinarians don’t know to look for it. Even the Los Angeles Times says that experts “won’t be able to conclusively say more until rigorously tested scientific data become available.”

If you live alone with your cats, there are even scarier scenarios to consider. Joy Pullman advocates that otherwise healthy people “go about our business” and “check into the hospital if we pick the coronavirus lottery ticket that gives us worse symptoms.” Maybe you agree, and feel that hospitals would be there if you needed them.

But who would be there for your cat if you were hospitalized? Even if you survive the virus and hospitalization — as Pullman suggests most would — is there someone you can guarantee would take care of your cat during a potentially long hospital stay? Would that person still step in to care for your cat if they knew your cat had been exposed to the coronavirus?

And would they even find your cat in time? At least one dog of a coronavirus-hospitalized patient died of starvation in New York before volunteers could help it. Even if your cat had care, would he or she need to be taken from your home and placed at a shelter? Shelters are very traumatic places for cats, and not somewhere most owners want their pet to end up.

The best way to avoid giving the coronavirus to your cat is to avoid getting it yourself. Especially if you’re young or otherwise healthy, you might not be concerned about getting the virus. And you might feel that masks and other protective measures impede your personal liberties, or are an unreasonable government intervention into private life.

But ask yourself this: even if you make it through the virus just fine, how would your pets fare? Could they get the virus from you, and end up suffering and getting sick? If you had to go to the hospital, would someone be willing to care for them for weeks or longer — or could they end up in a shelter, or worse?

Even if you’re in a low-risk group in terms of your own health, you may want to take more precautions if you have a cat. If not for you, then for them.

Co-Founder & CEO of Gado Images. I write, speak and consult about tech, privacy, AI and photography.

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