As China continues to battle the coronavirus outbreak, pet owners are fashioning makeshift face masks for their cats.
The new strain of coronavirus (also known as 2019-nCoV or Covid-19) has killed more than 1,000 people and infected a further 43,000 in China, while globally 395 cases have been confirmed, with one death in the Philippines.
While there’s no evidence to suggest you can catch the virus from your pet, nor can the pet catch the virus, anxious animal owners are taking precautions, sending ‘pet face mask’ sales soaring in China.
Pictures have been circulating on social media of a cat wearing a face mask typically worn by humans. However, in order for the feline to see, its owner has cut holes where its eyes are.
It’s unclear where the photos have originated from – they were recently uploaded to Weibo, a hugely popular Chinese social networking site, by blogger Li Shen Le, who said one of her followers had supplied them.
Other photos of animals being guarded against catching the novel coronavirus have been floating around social media too, with dogs and cats wearing face masks, cups and water bottles in aid of staying safe.
However, as per the World Health Organisation, there’s no evidence that you can catch coronavirus from any animal or pet, nor can they catch it:
The animal source of the 2019-nCoV has not yet been identified. This does not mean you can catch 2019-nCoV from any animal or from your pet. It’s likely that an animal source from a live animal market in China was responsible for some of the first reported human infections.
To protect yourself, when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals… at present there is no evidence that companion animals or pets such as cats and dogs have been infected or have spread 2019-nCoV.
While face masks are a sensible measure, Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said they may not be entirely effective.
In one well-controlled study in a hospital setting, the face mask was as good at preventing influenza infection as a purpose-made respirator. However, when you move to studies looking at their effectiveness in the general population, the data is less compelling – it’s quite a challenge to keep a mask on for prolonged periods of time.
Try and temper your anxiety – let your cat roam free without a face mask.