Throughout these tough and trying times, all of us at Meadows Cat Hospital would like you to know that we are here for you and your cat(s). Although there have been some changes to how we are doing business, we have managed to keep our routine and emergency operations open and without lapse. It was a team decision and each and every team member was emphatic in continuing to help your kitties during this time of need.
Over the last three months there has been a barrage of new knowledge about how COVID-19 affects us and (more recently) also how it might impact our pets. Although it has yet to be studied in a formal large-scale and controlled format, anecdotal reports and pre-publication studies have indicated that both large and small cat species (domestic cats, lions and tigers, etc.) can be infected by the COVID-19 virus and that these cat species can be infected by humans that are carrying the disease and potentially by other infected cats with (most likely) prolonged contact.
There are a few important things to understand about all of this information:
1.) None of these are full and controlled studies. Therefore, they tend to leave us with more questions than answers. As a scientist I have spent over 20 years parsing through this type of information and what we are learning is changing day-by-day--As we (the public) consume this information we need to keep our reactions to it measured.
2.) There has yet to be a single case of known cat-to-human transmission. Experts widely agree that based on the available information that human risks from cats are minimal. I agree that their risks are minimal (either to us or to other cats) and I also believe that based on the current data/reports, cats are actually at a much higher risk from us than they are to us.
3.) Cats seem to only get mild illness with COVID-19 and it does not appear to transmit easily to them. This has been supported by a study and furthermore by testing results done by IDEXX (the same laboratory provider we use for all testing in the hospital) who has been surveying felines in the Northeast, an area of the US with relatively high infection rates, and has not seen even rare infection.--So far, it does not appear that cats are likely to play an important role in transmitting the disease to humans or to themselves or that they will serve as a natural source of infection in the wild. Having said that, it’s our recommendation that cats be kept indoors at all times to minimize their exposure to the disease.
4.) NONE OF THIS WAS UNEXPECTED. COVID-19 or as it is also known, SARS-CoV-2, is a close relative to the original SARS virus that has been shown to clearly infect the same types of cells and by the same mechanisms in cats/humans and that is believed to be harbored in the wild in a cat/raccoon-like creature, the civet. Although, in the media this may seem scary or new, it was completely predictable (and honestly) expected by scientists. As you will read later, we put into place crucial precautions to decrease our personal risk of transmission to your kitty because of what I knew about the two major classes of coronaviruses in cats/humans and how they gain entry into the cell. I'm here to work with your veterinarians (Dr. Proctor and Dr. George) to cut through the panic and "new" information and help them make rational decisions supported by science and solid veterinary medicine rather than emotion.
So what should we do? -- For the vast majority of people, absolutely nothing. Considering the wide-spread benefits of pet-ownership and well-published stress relief that can come with cat-ownership and the lack of any evidence to suggest that they are a risk to us, it might behoove many of you to love your cats more right now. They also could use the good attention since they are predators and have an innate sense of fear/stress (they can literally smell a stressed animal) so your stress is probably affecting them. I consider it a mutually-beneficial relationship right now. All of our pet parents should keep at least a few weeks of medicines and prescription foods at all times. This plans for any potential supply disruptions or for lack of mobility, etc. At this time, we recommend that all outdoor or indoor/outdoor kitties be kept ideally indoors. As an unrelated observation, it’s important to note that there has been a significant uptick in bobcat attacks due to (we believe) lower levels of human activity outdoors. We have seen numerous incidences of attacks in the area within the last few weeks. Bobcat attacks were already higher in the last 12 months than in the decades before but over the last month they have happened more frequently.
What if we/I/us/our family gets COVID-19? -- At this point we do recommend keeping distance from your pets only if you are sick or diagnosed. They should stay in your household, merely keep them (or you) in a separate area. Gloves and masks at this point are prudent if you are sick or test positive. You are trying to protect them but they should not leave your house. Consider having a plan in place should they need care if you need to be hospitalized. It’s never a bad idea to hope for the best but plan for the worst. If a member of your family is sick (in any way with any symptoms) and your cat needs veterinary care, alert us or your vet.
What has changed at Meadows Cat Hospital? – Everything. Starting on January 26th, Meadows Cat Hospital moved to an aggressive policy of disinfection of all internal surfaces, equipment, retail products, medicines and carriers that enter the facility. Shortly thereafter, we were the first in market to move to a curbside model for all appointments and retail transactions. Only end-of-life considerations happen in- room with limitations on human contact. All retail items and medications (boxes) are disinfected upon entry into the hospital and shelved for a week before dispensing. In addition to increased hygiene and sanitary measures, our employees are wearing full masks and gloves to protect your cats. All employees are routinely self-screening and any symptoms (consistent with COVID-19 or not) mean time off. All cats that stay in the hospital are limited (if possible) to one cat per room and all cats get a disinfected kennel (using disinfectants that are known to quickly inactivatee coronaviruses from humans/cats). While staying here, each kennel opening is covered with a cloth barrier. The goal is to reduce the chance of exposure to your cat while maintaining their healthcare. Meadows Cat Hospital already limits appointments to maintain medical quality so crowding is generally not an issue in the hospital but we believe our barrier systems will additionally minimize any potential risks. In early February, Meadows Cat Hospital was stocked for 3-4 months of medical supplies (our medical supplies are generally independent from human needs) to ensure a complete lack of disruption for any medical treatments, emergency or surgical care. We are currently stocking 2-3 weeks of retail prescription food and 2-3 months of prescription medications.
Should I bring my cat in for routine matters? – Depends. If your cat has any chronic issues (such as kidney disease, hyperthyroid disease, diabetes, etc.), then absolutely yes. We do not recommend delaying annual or semi-annual exams for kitties that are not 100% healthy. For healthy young cats, that is a more personal choice. As our shelter-in-place restrictions ease back we will continue the curbside model for the foreseeable future and this model takes longer per cat, so there is wisdom in not delaying routine healthy cat care to avoid the inevitable crush of appointment requests that may follow when restrictions ease.
Myself, my wife (Dr. George), Dr. Proctor and the entire team are here to serve your cats' needs and will continue to do everything possible to protect both you and your furry family members' health. If you have any questions, or if your cat needs care or is having symptoms consistent with COVID-19 don't hesitate to call us at 425-392-8770 or e-mail us at email@example.com.