In the spring of 2020, Dr. Hinh Ly, a veterinary and biomedical researcher at the University of Minnesota, set out to find how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, affected cats and dogs.
According to a report in The New York Times, Ly and his wife, researcher Yuying Liang, began to test as many dogs and cats as they could for antibodies that would reveal a past infection.
For additional help, he turned to Dr. Daniel Heinrich, the campus veterinary center’s director of the clinical pathology, to assist him in obtaining samples with the blessing of pet parents who would remain anonymous.
After testing hundreds of samples, Ly discovered that “eight percent of cats carried antibodies to the coronavirus, whereas less than one percent of dogs did.”
Why Are Cats More Susceptible To The Virus?
The research at this time is unclear about why cats contract the virus more than dogs. One theory is that cats’ genetic sequence of ACE2, “a protein on the surface of cells that is a receptor for the coronavirus,” closely resembles the sequence of humans, while dogs’ genetic sequence does not.
Another reason that’s not so scientific? “Maybe it is because we cuddle the cats more,” Ly said. “Maybe we kiss the cats more.” The full results of Dr. Ly’s study were published in June 2021 in the scientific journal, Virulence.
Another study published in Life Science, also in June 2021, revealed that 67 percent of cats contracted COVID-19 from their humans, while just 43 percent of dogs did.
Dr. Dorothee Bienzle, a professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph in Ontario who conducted the study, may have a theory as to why.
“Cats, especially those that sleep on their owner’s bed, seem to be particularly vulnerable,” she said in a statement (via EurekAlert!). “So, if you have COVID-19, I’d advise that you keep your distance from your pet – and keep it out of your bedroom.”
Do you think your cat contracted COVID-19? Why do you think the virus affects cats more than dogs? Let us know in the comments below!