Local organizations partner with CDC to conduct study of coronavirus in cats

The Austin Humane Society and the Austin Animal Center have partnered with Texas A&M and the Texas Department of State Health Services to participate in a main CDC study of the coronavirus in cats. The study focuses specifically on feral cats.

“We know cats can get infected, and we’ve seen cats like lions in zoos and pet cats that have contracted SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID 19, but they’ve been in known contact with a These are kittens that don’t live in people’s homes. They are basically wild animals,” said Dr. Katie Luke, director of operations for the Austin Humane Society.

Dr Luke says the study will take place over a period of six months with 1,000 cats to see if COVID-19 can spread from animal to animal. A potential factor that has not been tested.

“It’s always something that’s of concern. If we see viruses mutating in host animals, you’re always worried that it might turn into something more deadly or that could suddenly spread in a different way, so it’s really just more surveillance to try to see what’s out there,” she said.

Dr. Luke says this study will cause no harm to the cats involved.

“These kittens are cats that come in for spaying and neutering surgery and they are being returned to their natural habitat after the surgery, just as they are now, so there is no harm done to them. We are basically taking just a swab from the back of the throat, then sending [the cats] back on track,” she said.

Other agencies across the country are participating in this study with different animals. Austin covers the cats. The results of this study will be shared with the CDC to find other ways to be more proactive and ready for the next virus.

“It’s just to learn more in general about how coronaviruses work and behave so that we can hopefully, as a scientific community, work towards better prevention for humans and better care in the together is the goal,” Dr. Luke said.

So far, about 20 to 30 cats have been tested, and results are awaited at a Texas A&M lab.

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