Kitty Litter and Disease Transmission

Study on coronavirus spread among cats sharing a litterbox

Enteric coronavirus is a highly contagious viral disease that is passed in the feces of infected cats, where it can then infect other cats. The litterbox can serve as a source of coronavirus infection, as cats can step in the feces of infected cats and then ingest the virus while grooming. While coronavirus infection is most commonly well tolerated by cats (it may cause mild gastrointestinal signs), in approximately 5% of cases, viral mutation can cause the commonly fatal disease feline infectious peritonitis, which is known as FIP.

A recent study investigated the effect of different cat litters on the ability of feline coronavirus to infect both feline embryonic cells and intact cats after incubation of virus with litter or infection of cats living with other non-infected cats in multiple-cat households.

While this study is preliminary, and follow-up studies are necessary to establish its validity and practical applicability, its results suggest that certain litters may minimize the ability of feline coronavirus to be transmitted (primarily earth and wood pellet-based litters, according to the study findings) to cats susceptible to the feline coronavirus infection (this study did not specifically evaluate  COVID-19).

J Feline Med Surg. 2020 Apr;22(4):350-357. doi: 10.1177/1098612X19848167