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Coronavirus in cats: how to recognize it
Coronavirus in cats: how to recognize it

The extent of the symptoms of the coronavirus of the cat it depends on a possible mutation, possible only in felines. This is a very frequent infection. Do not worry, however, these are species-specific strains: bipedal-quadrupedal contagion and vice versa is not possible.

cat coronavirus under the microscope
cat coronavirus under the microscope

There are some viral strains that don't just affect our four-legged friends. Betacoronavirus, for example, is responsible for some respiratory diseases in humans, known as SARS and MERS.

What is that

stray cat
stray cat

The cat coronavirus affects 25% to 40% of domestic cats. We know, it is surprising: many owners, in fact, do not know that their cat is a carrier: some specimens are resistant and it is not certain that they show symptoms. It is possible, however, that it changes within the feline organism, causing a very serious and dangerous disease: infectious peritonitis.

It is an RNA virus, which attacks predominantly the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. The infection occurs through the feces which are then licked during daily cleaning. Stray cats or cats that live in colonies, in fact, are 80 to 100% more likely to contract it.

The forms of the coronavirus

Our four-legged friend can take three different forms of the disease: latent, virulent and pathogenic. In the first case it is a healthy carrier, who has no symptoms but can infect.

In the second case it is not serious and attacks the stomach through the FECV virus; there third form is very serious and occurs with FIPV, infectious peritonitis.

Enteric coronavirus

cat not breathing
cat not breathing

It manifests itself as one chronic gastroenteritis minor. The main symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting. Often it goes unnoticed or mistaken for something else, and healing is spontaneous.

The immune response, however, does not last long. If there is another carrier in the same house, the disease could recur in a short time. The real risk is that it can change into its most severe form.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

The cat coronavirus develops into infectious peritonitis in one in ten. Unfortunately, it is a fatal disease in 95% of cases; and mainly affects the elderly, puppies and immuno-depressed subjects. The incubation times are unknown: it can take a few weeks or years. Symptoms vary and are not specific:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Slimming;
  • High body temperature;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Weakness;
  • Difficulty in breathing;
  • Repeated sneezing
  • Mood swings;
  • Iris color change and other eye diseases.

These are just a few signs Miao may present before ascites (abdominal swelling) or serious lung difficulty (from fluid in the chest or pericardium).

All types of FIP

cat kittens
cat kittens

The cat can get sick with wet infectious peritonitis, which has a rapid and acute course; or dry, with a slower evolution. In the first case the incidence is 75%, in the second 25:

  • Wet form: inflammation of the peritoneum (which lines the abdominal cavity) causes a leak of fluids from the blood vessels that invade the stomach, chest and pericardium that surrounds the heart;
  • There dry form it does not have a precise symptomatology, and varies according to the organs most affected: liver, kidneys, central nervous system, eyes.

While it doesn't happen often, some cats with coronavirus can have both forms at the same time. Life expectancy varies from two weeks to a few months.

The diagnosis

If our four-legged friend has any suspicious symptoms, let's take him to the vet immediately. It is indeed possible to make gods specific serological tests and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) which reveal the possible presence of the virus, but without giving information on the specific form.

Other tests can help in identifying the correct diagnosis: blood, liquid produced, X-rays and ultrasound scans. The ELISA and IFA techniques they can tell us if Miao has antibodies, but they don't show up early on.

The cure

gray long-haired cat
gray long-haired cat

Unfortunately, the cat's coronavirus infection it is not curable. We can limit ourselves to attenuating the symptoms of infectious peritonitis through anti-inflammatories, antidiarrheals, diuretics and antiemetics.

The only weapon in our possession is prevention. In fact, there is a vaccine which contrasts the manifestation of FIP.


Clean frequently the litter box, bowls and all the places where our four-legged friend usually lives is the first thing to do. A healthy diet rich in vitamins (especially D) and antioxidants is very useful; along with a quiet, stress-free life.

The Primucel it is the only vaccine in the world capable of counteracting infectious peritonitis in cats; but veterinarians do not all agree on its usefulness: it can help, in fact, only those who have never contracted the virus (not even in latent form).

How to eradicate the coronavirus from the environment

The cat coronavirus is not very hardy, especially at high temperatures. Common disinfectants, such as bleach. Before adopting another four-legged friend, however, we wait at least two or three weeks.

If we have a garden or outdoor space in which Miao freely did his own needs, let's clean him from the possible presence of contaminated feces. In this case, we allow a couple of months to pass: it is more difficult to eradicate on the outside.