Human-to-cat COVID-19 virus transmission: Belgium

My Guelph (that’s in Canada) friend, hockey buddy and veterinarian, Scott Weese, has done an admirable job of updating the world on pets and coronavirus through his Worms and Germs Blog.

He notes that a cat in Belgium, owned by a person with COVID-19, has tested positive for the virus. The cat developed diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory difficulty about 1 week after the owner got sick, and SARS-CoV-2 was found in the cat’s feces. It’s not clear whether the test used was PCR (which can detected live or dead virus) or virus isolation (which only detects live virus), or if other samples were also tested. It’s also not clear whether the cat was sick because of the infection with SARS-CoV-2 or whether it had some other co-incidental problem (or whether the cat is still alive or not).  They were clear that this is another suspected case of human-to-animal transmission, and not the other way around.

Is this surprising?

Not really. We’ve been saying there’s likely going to be some human-to-pet transmission, and cats have been a concern because they are theoretically a susceptible species based on analysis of the virus and cell receptors.

Is this concerning?

I don’t have any more concern today than I did before this report, since it was likely that this was going to happen, and animals (still) presumably pose very limited risk. An infected cat isn’t a big concern in the household since the person who exposed the cat in the first place is the main risk. This virus is being transmitted very effectively person-person, so animals likely play little role, if any in the grand scheme of things.  But we still want to take basic steps to keep the risk as low as possible.

So, what do we do?

The same thing we’ve been saying all along. If you’re sick, stay away from animals just like you would other people. If you have COVID-19 and have been around your pets, keep your pets inside and away from other people. While the risk of transmission to or from a pet is low, we don’t want an exposed pet tracking this virus out of the household (just like we don’t want an infected person doing that).

This is completely unsurprising. It doesn’t mean things are changing or that we have more risk today than yesterday. It just emphasizes again the importance of paying attention to basic infection control measures.

If you’re worried about getting COVID-19, worry about your human contacts, not your pets. Keep pets away from high risk people, but otherwise, your risk is from exposure to people, not your pet.

Cats like (some) people

I have previously bemoaned the absence of warm-blooded pets in my emotionally crippling childhood.

Growing up in late-1960s suburbia, my parents thought dogs should run on farms like their dogs had, and cats were a nuisance.

So I had a turtle.
Turtles were inexpensive, popular, and low maintenance, with an array of groovy pre-molded plastic housing designs to choose from. Invariably they would escape, only to be found days later behind the couch along with the skeleton of the class bunny my younger sister brought home from kindergarten one weekend.

But eventually, replacement turtles became harder to come by. Reports started surfacing that people with pet turtles were getting sick. In 1975, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned commercial distribution of turtles less than 4 inches in length, and it has been estimated that the FDA ban prevents some 100,000 cases of salmonellosis among children each year.

Maybe I got sick from my turtle.

Maybe I picked up my turtle, rolled around on the carpet with it, pet it a bit, and then stuck my finger in my mouth. Maybe in my emotionally vacant adolescence I kissed my turtle. Who can remember?

Then, one day in 1986, my now ex-wife and at the time veterinary student brought home two kittens from the clinic.

I named them Clark and Kent.

And as I was writing a science column for the university student paper in my spare time, I spent about three months writing about cat behaviour.

I’ve been fortunate to have cats and or dogs ever since.

Rachel Nuwer of the New York Times writes that in the perennial battle over dogs and cats, there’s a clear public relations winner.

Dogs are man’s best friend. They’re sociable, faithful and obedient. Our relationship with cats, on the other hand, is often described as more transactional. Aloof, mysterious and independent, cats are with us only because we feed them.

Or maybe not. On Monday, researchers reported that cats are just as strongly bonded to us as dogs or infants, vindicating cat lovers across the land.

“I get that a lot — ‘Well, I knew that, I know that cats like to interact with me,’” said Kristyn Vitale, an animal behavior scientist at Oregon State University and lead author of the new study, published in Current Biology. “But in science, you don’t know that until you test it.”

Research into cat behavior has lagged that into dogs. Cats are not social animals, many scientists assumed — and not as easy to work with. But recent studies have begun to plumb the depth of cats’ social lives.

“This idea that cats don’t really care about people or respond to them isn’t holding up,” Dr. Vitale said.

In a study in 2017, Dr. Vitale and her colleagues found that the majority of cats prefer interacting with a person over eating or playing with a toy. In a 2019 study, the researchers found that cats adjust their behavior according to how much attention a person gives them.

Other researchers have found that cats are sensitive to human emotion and mood, and that cats know their names.

They recruited owners of 79 kittens and 38 adult cats to participate in a “secure base test,” an experiment commonly used to measure bonds that dogs and primates form with caretakers.

A similar test is also used for human infants. It is based on the theory that infants form an innate bond with caretakers that manifests as a strong desire to be near that person.

In the experiment, which lasted six minutes, cat and kitten owners entered an unfamiliar room with their animals. After two minutes, the owner left the room, leaving the cat or kitten alone — a potentially stressful experience for the animal. When the owner returned two minutes later, the researchers observed the feline’s response.

About two-thirds of cats and kittens came to greet their owners when they returned, and then went back to exploring the room, periodically returning to their owners. These animals, the researchers concluded, were securely attached to their owners, meaning they viewed them as a safe base in an unfamiliar situation.

We have two fluff-balls currently, siblings, one is a service cat that cuddles when she senses you are sad and constantly sleeps with our daughter, and the other is a hormonal mess of male anxiety, hates to be touched and meows constantly beginning at 4 a.m. or really any time.

Texas vet who killed cat with arrow, posed for photo can’t practice for 1 year, board decides

I slept with a veterinarian for 18 years.

We have four beautiful daughters who are all exploring the world in their own way.

vet-cat-arrowI also have no doubt she would kill a cat for practicality.

Me and my dairy farmer friend Jim are all for that.

But I often lay in bed, wondering, if she could castrate cats at the kitchen table, what fate might befall me?

“Some will rob you with a six-gun,

And some with a fountain pen.”

 The Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners ruled Tuesday that Kristen Lindsey, the veterinarian who posted a photo of a dead tabby cat named Tiger with an arrow through its head on her Facebook last year, will have her license suspended for one year where she will not be able to practice.

After, she will be able to practice under conditions of probation for four years.

Tuesday’s hearing was the last in a string of debates on what action to take, if any, against Lindsey, after her photo incited international uproar from animal activists.

Lindsey, a veterinarian since 2012, was fired from her position at the Washington Animal Clinic in Brenham and put under investigation by the Austin County Sheriff’s Office last April after she posted a photo holding a dead tabby cat named “Tiger” with a arrow through its head with a caption reading:

“My first bow kill, lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s (sic) head! Vet of the year award… gladly accepted.”

The clinic that fired Lindsey, 33, released a statement shortly after that saying: “We are absolutely appalled, shocked, upset, and disgusted by the conduct.”

Yup, that fits with the vet I used to sleep with.

Dogs, cats, pigeons in sight for hungry Venezuelans

As the economy spirals into deeper disarray, protests aimed at driving unpopular Venezuelans president Nicolás Maduro out of office are growing. Maduro responded over the weekend by declaring a 60-day state of emergency to combat what he said are U.S.-sponsored efforts to overthrow his socialist government.

hambre-en-VenezuelaPeter Wilson of USA Today reports the unrest mounts as the country faces continuing shortages of essential food, medicine and toiletries. All the bakeries here in La Victoria, 55 miles southwest of Caracas, stopped producing bread last week because there is no flour.

“People are hunting dogs and cats in the streets, and pigeons in the plazas to eat,” Ramon Muchacho, mayor of the Caracas district of Chacao, said this month in a tweet that was reported in many newspapers.

An epic drought has also gripped this nation that relies mostly on hydroelectric dams, sparking rolling blackouts and water shortages. Hospitals have had to postpone operations and procedures because of power outages. And government employees now work only two days a week to conserve electricity.

 

NY woman takes cat on ‘romantic dinner date’ at restaurant

A woman took a cat to dinner Tuesday evening at a Broadway restaurant, sitting the feline across from her at their outdoor table before leaving without ordering any food, a witness said.

cat.rest.may.15The pair was at the Upper West branch of RedFarm, according to local resident Jessie Auritt, who snapped a picture of the unusual sight and posted it to her Instagram account.

The cat, bedecked in a red bandana and attached to a leash the woman had loosely looped around her wrist, is shown in the photo sitting up in its chair during the “romantic dinner date for two,” she quipped in her post.

RedFarm owner Ed Schoenfeld said it wasn’t the first time the woman and her cat turned up at his restaurant.

“This woman has tried to eat at our restaurant previously with her cat and we’ve denied her service in order to be compliant with the law,” he explained.

The state health code states that pets, except for service animals or police dogs, are not allowed in restaurants or outdoor dining areas, a Health Department spokesman said.

Safety of pet food packaging

Having dropped off a urine sample from Jacques (the white one) at the vet yesterday, and getting dinged for $400 while we were away, I’m increasingly sensitive about the food we feed the cats.

doug.cats.jun.14Joe Pryweller, an analyst for The Freedonia Group, an industry market research consultancy (www.freedoniagroup.com) writes in Food Safety Magazine that food packaging can significantly influence the quality and safety of the food product in question by providing a barrier to moisture and other environmental conditions that may result in contamination and/or spoilage.

The U.S. demand for pet food packaging is expected to rise 4.8 percent annually to $2.5 billion by 2018. Growth will be based on the use of higher value, more sophisticated packaging and continued strength in pet food shipments. The proliferation of premium pet food brands will also spur packaging demand growth, as higher value containers will be required to provide superior graphics, puncture resistance to reduce likelihood of contamination and barrier protection for these more expensive, higher-quality products.

While limited design flexibility and the inconvenience of opening cans have been the chief drawbacks of metal pet food containers, this segment is attempting to increase its competitiveness by emphasizing the safety of steel cans and their environmental friendliness due to their recyclability and use of recycled content. A much lower rate of product recalls for pet food exists for food packaged in metal cans than for that packaged in plastic alternatives, due to the tight seal and tamper evidence in cans.

According to a new study, Pet Food Packaging, demand for metal cans in pet food packaging is forecast to rise 2.7 percent annually to $650 million in 2018.

steve.martin.cat.jugglingThis study analyzed the $2 billion U.S. pet food packaging industry. It presents historical demand data for 2003, 2008 and 2013, and forecasts for 2018 and 2023 by application (e.g., dry food, wet food, pet treats, chilled and frozen), animal (e.g., dog food, cat food), type (e.g., bags, metal cans, pouches, folding cartons, plastic bottles and jars, tubs and cups) and material (paperboard, plastic, metal, wovens).

Cans held 29 percent of the pet food packaging market in 2013. The percentage of overall can demand in pet food packaging will continue to decline due to supplantation by other packaging types, including retort pouches, tubs and cups, and chubs. Pouch demand in pet food packaging is forecast to rise 8.3 percent per annum to $540 million in 2018, the fastest pace of growth among pet food packaging types. For small packages of dry food, pouches will continue to supplant bags. For wet food, retort pouches will continue to gain acceptance as an alternative to metal cans, growing in popularity due to peelable lids that are easier to open and allow the consumer to avoid cuts from metal edges and especially in applications where strength and stiffness are not primary factors.

‘Construction workers like it’ Activists call on Swiss parliament to outlaw eating cat for Christmas

Amy talks glowingly of her time in Switzerland, but seems sorta weird to me.

steve.martin.cat.jugglingKeeping with the shameless exploitation of cats to increase blog hits, animal rights activists have drawn up a petition to ban the ‘barbaric’ practice of eating pets in Switzerland, where cat meat often appears on traditional Christmas menus in rural areas.

The animal protection group, SOS Chats Noraingue, has handed over a petition with 16,000 signatures, including such notable animal rights defenders as Brigitte Bardot, to the Swiss parliament on Tuesday.

Dog meat is often used to make sausage, while cats are prepared around the holiday season in a similar style to rabbit – in a white wine and garlic sauce. A type of mostbröckli made from marinated cat or dog is another local favorite.

Though there are no statistics available on the amount of cat and dog meat consumed by the Swiss, SOS Chats founder and president, Tomi Tomek told AFP she suspects that “around three percent of the Swiss secretly eat cat or dog.”

While the commercial sale of dog meat is banned nationwide, its consumption is still legal and is particularly popular in Lucerne, Appenzell, Jura and in the canton of Bern, according to Tomek. Farmers are free to kill and eat their own animals. Those in the Appenzell and St. Gallen areas are said to favor a beefy breed of dog related to Rottweilers.

In a 2012 report on pet eating in the Swiss paper Tages Anzeiger, the Swiss Veterinary Office chalked up the practice to a “cultural matter” and noted that some countries breed dogs specifically for slaughter.

One farmer, defending the practice, told the paper, “There’s nothing odd about it. Meat is meat. Construction workers in particular like eating it.”

FDA says, keep lilies away from your cats

The white, trumpet-shaped Easter lily symbolizes Easter and spring for many people, and is a popular decoration in homes at this time of year.

If you have cats, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to remind you that these particular flowers, as well as Tiger, Asiatic, Day, and Japanese Show lilies, are a safety threat to your feline friends.

easter.lilyEating small amounts of plants or grass may be normal for cats. But the entire lily plant (leaf, pollen, and flower) is poisonous to them, according to Melanie McLean, a veterinarian at FDA. Even if they just eat a couple of leaves or lick a few pollen grains off their fur, cats can suffer acute kidney failure within a very short period of time.

McLean says that if your cat has eaten part of a lily, the first thing you’ll see is vomiting soon afterwards. That may gradually lessen over two to four hours. Within 12 to 24 hours, the cat may start to urinate frequently. Then, if kidney failure sets in, the cat will stop urinating because the kidneys stop being able to produce urine. Untreated, she says, a cat will die within four to seven days of eating a lily.

First cases documented of TB caught from cats

There was this one time, I went to the U.S., and when I returned there were two Persian furballs in the house.

I vacuumed this morning and reminded Amy, you wanted fluffy cats, right?

jacques.salamader.2.14She laughed as she went out the door.

The New York Times reports the first documented cases of people catching tuberculosis from their cats were revealed in England this week, but TB experts there and in the United States reassured pet owners that they had virtually nothing to fear.

The four human cases were all related to a rare cluster of sick cats in southern England, and all were instances of bovine tuberculosis, which is carried by cows.

Public Health England, which released the report, said the risk to cat owners was “very low.”

The English medical report was a follow-up to a veterinary TB outbreak, in which one veterinarian diagnosed the illness in nine very sick cats from different households within a few miles of one another in or around Newbury, England, from late 2012 to early 2013. Twenty-four people connected to those cats were screened; two had latent TB without symptoms, and two had active infections. DNA testing showed that all four had the same strain as all the cats.

The cats roamed through local woods, the report said, and probably got infected either by eating rodents that had picked up the disease from cows or by fighting with badgers, which also carry it. They may have passed it among themselves through bites.

Bovine TB is more common in England than in the United States, said Dr. Paul P. Calle, chief veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo.

“This may very well have happened before, in the days before milk was pasteurized and cats were kept in barns for mouse control,” he said. “But for an apartment cat, the risk is nil.”

Although there could be a Salmonella risk from hunting salamanders and skinks, and the little ones enter the townhouse routinely.

Toxoplasmosis: cats control my mind, or the sink

We have two Persian fluff balls for cats, and one insists on sleeping in the sink.

According to The Atlantic, the parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii comes into us by undercooked meat, well-intentioned placentas (what?), gardening soil, or, most infamously, cats. It is the reason that pregnant women are not supposed to empty litter boxes.

“If you’re young and healthy and have it already, it might provide some benefit, as we saw in our research,” says Ann-Kathrin Stock, a cognitive neurophysiology researcher at the jacques.cat.dec.13University of Dresden in Germany. “But the adverse effects are potentially huge. If you ever really get sick it might be what kills you.”

Many people have what feels like a cold after they get infected with Toxo. The symptoms pass, and the person feels fine. But the Toxo lives on inside them, hidden dormant in little cysts, kept in check by constant pressure from the person’s immune system. If our immune systems become weak, because of a serious illness later in life, though, the Toxo can break out and attack organs like the brain or retina.

“You might lose your ability to see, or lose your cognitive faculties,” Stock said.

Neuroscientist Joraslov Flegr, an eminent voice in Toxo research, told The Atlantic last year that, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

What does it mean to learn that it can also have beneficial effects?

Toxo has been all over the news in recent years, since it became known that the parasite manipulates people’s behavior. Maybe most interestingly and notoriously, it seems to make men more introverted, suspicious, unattractive to women, and oblivious to the way others see them.

Clearly, I have Toxo.

Infected women, inversely, have been shown to be more outgoing, trusting, sexually adventurous, attractive to men, and image-conscious.

Clearly Amy has Toxo.