Cats, fomites and Covid-19
Updated: Jun 20, 2020
So what are ‘fomites’? Fomites are materials or objects which could carry infection. This includes items such as clothes, furniture and utensils.
Could cats (dogs or other pets) be considered as fomites?
Smooth, non-porous surfaces (e.g. doorknobs, countertops) transmit viruses better than porous materials (e.g. paper money, cardboard, pet fur). Porous (and especially fibrous) materials trap and absorb the virus so it’s more difficult to transfer through touch.
In laboratory conditions, the Coronavirus appears to survive on smooth surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic for up to 72 hours, but for shorter periods on surfaces such as cardboard (24 hours). The amount of the virus also appears to reduce over time on each of those surfaces, so the risk of infection through touch will probably reduce over time as well.
No research has yet been done about whether the virus can be passed on by the coats of animals, but because cat and dog hair is fibrous and porous, it is unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 by stroking or playing with your cat. Cats also groom themselves quite often too which would help to remove any potential traces of the virus from their coat.
As there are still things that we may not yet know about the virus, in line with the general advice on fighting Coronavirus, you should carefully follow the advice on good hand hygiene (which is always sensible anyway) by washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after interacting with or touching your cat or any of their things.
Avoid using antiseptic wipes on your cat’s coat as your cat will groom the chemicals off their coat and ingest them. Cats can be very sensitive to some disinfectants which can lead to them becoming ill.