A household case evidences shorter shedding of SARS-CoV-2 in naturally infected cats compared to their human owners

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2021 Dec;10(1):376-383. doi: 10.1080/22221751.2020.1863132.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been detected in domestic and wild cats. However, little is known about natural viral infections of domestic cats, although their importance for modelling disease spread, informing strategies for managing positive human-animal relationships and disease prevention. Here, we describe the SARS-CoV-2 infection in a household of two human adults and sibling cats (one male and two females) using real-time RT-PCR, an ELISA test, viral sequencing, and virus isolation. On May 5th, 2020, the cat-owners tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Two days later, the male cat showed mild respiratory symptoms and tested positive. Four days after the male cat, the two female cats became positive, asymptomatically. Also, one human and one cat showed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. All cats excreted detectable SARS-CoV-2 RNA for a shorter duration than humans and viral sequences analysis confirmed human-to-cat transmission. We could not determine if cat-to-cat transmission also occurred.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; domestic cats; households; natural infection; viral shedding.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / veterinary*
  • COVID-19 / virology*
  • Cats / virology*
  • Chile
  • Female
  • Genome, Viral
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • SARS-CoV-2 / growth & development
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology
  • Virus Shedding*


  • RNA, Viral

Grant support

This study was partly funded by the Programa Fondecyt de Iniciación N° 11170877 and Proyecto FIV to VN; the Programa Beca Magister Nacional de ANID N°22190312 to NA. We thank Randy Albrecht for support with the BSL3 facility and procedures at the ISMMS, and Richard Cadagan for technical assistance. These studies were partly supported by CRIP (Center for Research for Influenza Pathogenesis), a NIAID supported Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS, contract # HHSN272201400008C) to VN, RAM, HVB, and AG-S; by the generous support of the JPB Foundation, the Open Philanthropy Project (research grant 2020–215611 (5384)); and by anonymous donors to AG-S. This research was also partly supported by the Office of Research Infrastructure of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under award numbers S10OD018522 and S10OD026880. ASG-R. was further supported by a Robin Chemers Neustein Postdoctoral Fellowship Award. Human protocols and the study set-up used for this study were based on influenza virus studies established in part with the support of the FONDECYT 1161971 grant to RAM and by grant ACT 1408 to RAM and VN from the Agencia Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo (ANID) from Chile.Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico