Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in cats: a systematic review


domestic cat, epidemiology, SARS-CoV-2.

How to Cite

Teixeira, A. I. P. ., & Cantarino, L. . (2021). Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in cats: a systematic review. Brazilian Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 43(1), e000421.


The epidemiological role of cats in the coronavirus disease pandemic remains unclear despite of several studies that have been conducted to understand it, in other words it is not yet known whether the cat would be able to transmit severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to humans. Taking that into account, the objective of this study was to conduct a systematic review to identify what is known and not known on this topic. Our results revealed that cats can be infected through an airborne (perhaps oral, too) route and that the clinical development of the infection in cats is parallel to that in humans. The majority of infected cats remained asymptomatic, and more severe clinical cases described occurred only in animals with comorbidities. In addition to infection, cats achieved seroconversion with detectable titers. However, the epidemiological role of cats in relation to transmission routes of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) remains unclear and needs to be studied further. We emphasize that, regardless of the conclusion regarding the epidemiological role of cats, this reinforces the concepts of ONE HEALTH to be incorporated into the studies and practices of epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases, with multidisciplinary teams, to achieve an understanding of the transmission of diseases with zoonotic potential.


Abdel-Moneim, A. S., & Abdelwhab, E. M. (2020). Evidence for SARS-CoV-2 infection of animal hosts. Pathogens, 9(7), 529. PMid:32629960.

Alexander, M. R., Schoeder, C. T., Brown, J. A., Smart, C. D., Moth, C., Wikswo, J. P., Capra, J. A., Meiler, J., Chen, W., & Madhur, M. S. (2020). Predicting susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection based on structural differences in ACE2 across species. The FASEB Journal, 34(12), 15946-15960. PMid:33015868.

Barrs, V. R., Peiris, M., Tam, K. W. S., Law, P. Y. T., Brackman, C. J., To, E. M. W., Yu, V. Y. T., Chu, D. K. W., Perera, R. A. P. M., & Sit, T. H. C. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 in quarantined domestic cats from COVID-19 households or close contacts, Hong Kong, China. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(12), 3071-3074. eid2612.202786. PMid:32938527.

Belouzard, S., Millet, J. K., Licitra, B. N., & Whittaker, G. R. (2012). Mechanisms of coronavirus cell entry mediated by the viral spike protein. Viruses, 4(6), 1011-1033. PMid:22816037.

Bosco-Lauth, A. M., Hartwig, A. E., Porter, S. M., Gordy, P. W., Nehring, M., Byas, A. D., VandeWoude, S., Ragan, I. K., Maison, R. M., & Bowen, R. A. (2020). Experimental infection of domestic dogs and cats with SARS-CoV-2: Pathogenesis, transmission, and response to reexposure in cats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(42), 26382-26388. PMid:32994343.

Brooke, G. N., & Prischi, F. (2020). Structural and functional modelling of SARS-CoV-2 entry in animal models. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 15917. PMid:32985513.

Cheng, V. C. C., Lau, S. K. P., Woo, P. C. Y., & Yuen, K. Y. (2007). Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus as an agent of emerging and reemerging infection. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 20(4), 660-694. http://dx.doi. org/10.1128/CMR.00023-07. PMid:17934078.

Chiocchetti, R., Galiazzo, G., Fracassi, F., Giancola, F., & Pietra, M. (2020). ACE2 Expression in the cat and the tiger gastrointestinal tracts. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 514. PMid:32903561.

Decaro, N., & Lorusso, A. (2020). Novel human coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): a lesson from animal coronaviruses. Veterinary Microbiology, 244, 108693. PMid:32402329.

Deng, J., Jin, Y., Liu, Y., Sun, J., Hao, L., Bai, J., Huang, T., Lin, D., Jin, Y., & Tian, K. (2020a). Serological survey of SARS-CoV-2 for experimental, domestic, companion and wild animals excludes intermediate hosts of 35 different species of animals. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 67(4), 1745-1749. tbed.13577. PMid:32303108.

Deng, J., Liu, Y., Sun, C., Bai, J., Sun, J., Hao, L., Li, X., & Tian, K. (2020b). SARS-CoV-2 serological survey of cats in China before and after the Pandemic. Virologica Sinica, 35(6), 846-848. 020-00284-5. PMid:32870451.

Dhama, K., Patel, S. K., Sharun, K., Pathak, M., Tiwari, R., Yatoo, M. I., Malik, Y. S., Sah, R., Rabaan, A. A., Panwar, P. K., Singh, K. P., Michalak, I., Chaicumpa, W., Martinez-Pulgarin, D. F., Bonilla-Aldana, D. K., & Rodriguez-Morales, A. J. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 jumping the species barrier: Zoonotic lessons from SARS, MERS and recent advances to combat this pandemic virus. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 37, 101830. tmaid.2020.101830. PMid:32755673.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control – ECDC. (2020). Detection of new SARS-CoV-2 variants related to mink. Stockholm: ECDC.

Garigliany, M., Van Laere, A.-S., Clercx, C., Giet, D., Escriou, N., Huon, C., van der Werf, S., Eloit, M., & Desmecht, D. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 natural transmission from human to cat, Belgium, March 2020. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(12), 3069-3071. PMid:32788033.

Gaudreault, N. N., Trujillo, J. D., Carossino, M., Meekins, D. A., Morozov, I., Madden, D. W., Indran, S. V., Bold, D., Balaraman, V., Kwon, T., Artiaga, B. L., Cool, K., García-Sastre, A., Ma, W., Wilson, W. C., Henningson, J., Balasuriya, U. B. R., & Richt, J. A. (2020). SARS-CoV-2 infection, disease, and transmission in domestic cats. Emerging Microbes & Infections, 9(1), 2322-2332. PMid:33028154.

Halfmann, P. J., Hatta, M., Chiba, S., Maemura, T., Fan, S., Takeda, M., Kinoshita, N., Hattori, S., Sakai-Tagawa, Y., Iwatsuki-Horimoto, K., Imai, M., & Kawaoka, Y. (2020). Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in domestic cats. The New England Journal of Medicine, 383(6), 592-594. PMid:32402157.

Jo, W. K., Oliveira-Filho, E. F., Rasche, A., Greenwood, A. D., Osterrieder, K., & Drexler, J. F. (2020). Potential zoonotic sources of SARS-CoV-2 infections. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, tbed.13872. tbed.13872. PMid:33034151.

Jurgiel, J., Filipiak, K. J., Szarpak, Ł., Jaguszewski, M., Smereka, J., & Dzieciątkowski, T. (2020). Do pets protect their owners in the COVID-19 era? Medical Hypotheses, 142, 109831. PMid:32428810.

Leroy, E. M., Ar Gouilh, M. A., & Brugère-Picoux, J. (2020). The risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to pets and other wild and domestic animals strongly mandates a one-health strategy to control the COVID-19 pandemic. One Health, 10, 100133. PMid:32363229.

Luan, J., Lu, Y., Jin, X., & Zhang, L. (2020). Spike protein recognition of mammalian ACE2 predicts the host range and an optimized ACE2 for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 526(1), 165-169. PMid:32201080.

Mathavarajah, S., & Dellaire, G. (2020). Lions, tigers and kittens too: ACE2 and susceptibility to COVID-19. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2020(1), 109-113. PMid:32974030.

Mobasheri, A. (2020). COVID-19, companion animals, comparative medicine, and one health. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 522. PMid:32923472.

Morais, H. A., Santos, A. P., Nascimento, N. C., Kmetiuk, L. B., Barbosa, D. S., Brandão, P. E., Guimarães, A. M. S., Pettan-Brewer, C., & Biondo, A. W. (2020). Natural infection by SARS-CoV-2 in companion animals: A review of case reports and current evidence of their role in the epidemiology of COVID-19. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, 591216. PMid:33195627.

Munnink, B. B. O., Sikkema, R. S., Nieuwenhuijse, D. F., Molenaar, R. J., Munger, E., Molenkamp, R., Bouwmeester- Vincken, N., van der Spek, A., Tolsma, P., Rietveld, A., Brouwer, M., Bouwmeester-Vincken, N., Harders, F., Hakze-van der Honing, R., Wegdam-Blans, M. C.A., Bouwstra, R. J., Geurts van Kessel, C., van der Eijk, A. A., Velkers, F. C., Smit, L. A.M., Stegeman, A., van der Poel, W. H.M., & Koopmans, M. P. G. (2020). Jumping back and forth: anthropozoonotic and zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 on mink farms. bioRxiv. In press.

Musso, N., Costantino, A., La Spina, S., Finocchiaro, A., Andronico, F., Stracquadanio, S., Liotta, L., Visalli, R., & Emmanuele, G. (2020). New SARS-CoV-2 infection detected in an Italian Pet cat by RT-qPCR from deep pharyngeal swab. Pathogens, 9(9), 746. PMid:32932800.

Newman, A., Smith, D., Ghai, R. R., Wallace, R. M., Torchetti, M. K., Loiacono, C., Murrell, L. S., Carpenter, A., Moroff, S., Rooney, J. A., & Barton Behravesh, C. (2020). First reported cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in companion animals: new York, March-April 2020. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(23), 710-713. http:// PMid:32525853.

Paltrinieri, S., Giordano, A., Stranieri, A., & Lauzi, S. (2020). Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) and coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19): are they similar? Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 00, 1-14. tbed.13856. PMid:32985113.

Patterson, E. I., Elia, G., Grassi, A., Giordano, A., Desario, C., Medardo, M., Smith, S. L., Anderson, E. R., Prince, T., Patterson, G. T., Lorusso, E., Lucente, M. S., Lanave, G., Lauzi, S., Bonfanti, U., Stranieri, A., Martella, V., Basano, F. S., Barrs, V. R., Radford, A. D., Agrimi, U., Hughes, G. L., Paltrinieri, S., & Decaro, N. (2020). Evidence of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in cats and dogs from households in Italy. bioRxiv. In press. http://dx.doi. org/10.1101/2020.07.21.214346. PMid:32743588.

Ruiz-Arrondo, I., Portillo, A., Palomar, A. M., Santibáñez, S., Santibáñez, P., Cervera, C., & Oteo, J. A. (2021). Detection of SARS‐CoV‐2 in pets living with COVID‐19 owners diagnosed during the COVID‐19 lockdown in Spain: a case of an asymptomatic cat with SARS‐CoV‐2 in Europe. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 68(2), 973-976. PMid:32810370.

Sailleau, C., Dumarest, M., Vanhomwegen, J., Delaplace, M., Caro, V., Kwasiborski, A., Hourdel, V., Chevaillier, P., Barbarino, A., Comtet, L., Pourquier, P., Klonjkowski, B., Manuguerra, J.-C., Zientara, S., & Le Poder, S. (2020). First detection and genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 in an infected cat in France. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases, 67(6), 2314. PMid:32500944.

Salajegheh Tazerji, S., Magalhães Duarte, P., Rahimi, P., Shahabinejad, F., Dhakal, S., Singh Malik, Y., Shehata, A. A., Lama, J., Klein, J., Safdar, M., Rahman, M. T., Filipiak, K. J., Rodríguez-Morales, A. J., Sobur, M. A., Kabir, F., Vazir, B., Mboera, L., Caporale, M., Islam, M. S., Amuasi, J. H., Gharieb, R., Roncada, P., Musaad, S., Tilocca, B., Koohi, M. K., Taghipour, A., Sait, A., Subbaram, K., Jahandideh, A., Mortazavi, P., Abedini, M. A., Hokey, D. A., Hogan, U., Shaheen, M. N. F., Elaswad, A., Elhaig, M. M., & Fawzy, M. (2020). Transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to animals: an updated review. Journal of Translational Medicine, 18(1), 358. PMid:32957995.

Segalés, J., Puig, M., Rodon, J., Avila-Nieto, C., Carrillo, J., Cantero, G., Terrón, M. T., Cruz, S., Parera, M., Noguera- Julián, M., Izquierdo-Useros, N., Guallar, V., Vidal, E., Valencia, A., Blanco, I., Blanco, J., Clotet, B., & Vergara-Alert, J. (2020). Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in a cat owned by a COVID-19−affected patient in Spain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(40), 24790-24793. pnas.2010817117. PMid:32948692.

Sharun, K., Sircar, S., Malik, Y. S., Singh, R. K., & Dhama, K. (2020). How close is SARS-CoV-2 to canine and feline coronaviruses? The Journal of Small Animal Practice, 61(8), 523. PMid:32785948.

Shi, J., Wen, Z., Zhong, G., Yang, H., Wang, C., Huang, B., Liu, R., He, X., Shuai, L., Sun, Z., Zhao, Y., Liu, P., Liang, L., Cui, P., Wang, J., Zhang, X., Guan, Y., Tan, W., Wu, G., Chen, H., & Bu, Z. (2020). Susceptibility of ferrets, cats, dogs, and other domesticated animals to SARS-coronavirus 2. Science, 368(6494), 1016-1020. http://dx.doi. org/10.1126/science.abb7015. PMid:32269068.

Stout, A. E., André, N. M., Jaimes, J. A., Millet, J. K., & Whittaker, G. R. (2020). Coronaviruses in cats and other companion animals: Where does SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 fit? Veterinary Microbiology, 247, 108777. http:// PMid:32768223.

Sun, K., Gu, L., Ma, L., & Duan, Y. (2020). Atlas of ACE2 gene expression in mammals reveals novel insights in transmisson of SARS-Cov-2. bioRxiv. In press.

Temmam, S., Barbarino, A., Maso, D., Behillil, S., Enouf, V., Huon, C., Jaraud, A., Chevallier, L., Backovic, M., Pérot, P., Verwaerde, P., Tiret, L., van der Werf, S., & Eloit, M. (2020). Absence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in cats and dogs in close contact with a cluster of COVID-19 patients in a veterinary campus. One Health, 10, 100164. PMid:32904469.

Ul-Rahman, A., Shabbir, M. A. B., Aziz, M. W., Yaqub, S., Mehmood, A., Raza, M. A., & Shabbir, M. Z. (2020). A comparative phylogenomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 strains reported from non-human mammalian species and environmental samples. Molecular Biology Reports, 47(11), 9207-9217. 020-05879-5. PMid:33104993.

Wang, H., Wang, F., Wang, H., & Zhao, Q. (2020). Potential infectious risk from the pets carrying SARS-CoV-2. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, 35, 101737. PMid:32380152.

World Health Organization – WHO. (2020, November 5). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) dashboard. https://

Wu, L., Chen, Q., Liu, K., Wang, J., Han, P., Zhang, Y., Hu, Y., Meng, Y., Pan, X., Qiao, C., Tian, S., Du, P., Song, H., Shi, W., Qi, J., Wang, H.-W., Yan, J., Gao, G. F., & Wang, Q. (2020). Broad host range of SARS-CoV-2 and the molecular basis for SARS-CoV-2 binding to cat ACE2. Cell Discovery, 6(1), 68. 020-00210-9. PMid:33020722.

Zhang, Q., Zhang, H., Gao, J., Huang, K., Yang, Y., Hui, X., He, X., Li, C., Gong, W., Zhang, Y., Zhao, Y., Peng, C., Gao, X., Chen, H., Zou, Z., Shi, Z.-L., & Jin, M. (2020). A serological survey of SARS-CoV-2 in cat in Wuhan. Emerging Microbes & Infections, 9(1), 2013-2019. PMid:32867625.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 Ana Izabel Passarella Teixeira, Ligia Cantarino