Well, the cat’s out of the bag now, well and truly.
Anyone who knows cats like I do knows that cats had to be virus-vectors, so I’m not surprised. The only surprising thing is that it took the world so long to find out.
It’s a Siamese cat too – the most inscrutable of this shifty and untrustworthy species. It lives in southern England and the UK’s Animal Plant Health Laboratory in Weybridge confirmed last week it has COVID-19.
The Guardian – a cat-loving journal if I ever saw one – is reporting that the cat’s owners must have kissed it or sneezed on it – or more likely, I suspect, used it as a tissue. And so, The Guardian says, they gave the virus to the cat.
This is hard for a dog to swallow. Cats are generally disease-ridden and famous for their dreadful feline herpes, their appalling feline calicivirus, their feline infectious anemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline distemper and feline rabies – the list goes on.
Having nine lives, of course, they mostly get away with it. This six-year-old Siamese had “shortness of breath and a nasal discharge” and has since recovered – but not before sending shivers down the spines of a million cat owners.
Margaret Hosie, the professor of comparative virology at Glasgow University, advised cat owners “to observe very careful hygiene.”
Why would she say this if it was the owners who sneezed on the cat, rather than the other way round?
“Don’t kiss your cat,” she went on. “Don’t have the cat sleeping in a bed with you – and don’t share food with the cat.”
She expressed surprise that a Siamese cat, a breed that has short fur, caught the disease. “I thought maybe fluffier ones would be ready to catch any sneezes or cough droplets. But you can’t draw any significance from that.”
Well, I can. The cat was the spreader, no question. Probably a super-spreader. And if one cat can do it, all cats can do it. That’s why the cat’s out of the bag.
The Boss says that phrase is meant to indicate something previously undisclosed is now out in the open, for all to see.
But he’s not sure where it came from. One theory is that sailors in the old sailing ship days used it to refer to the feared weapon of punishment, the cat o’ nine tails, which was kept in a red cloth bag.
Another is that cats were sometimes substituted for piglets at rural markets – the piglets were kept in a “poke” or bag. Letting the cat out of the bag would reveal the scam.
None of this will cheer up the owners of the UK’s 10.9 million cats. A month or two back, the British Vetinary Association caused some panic when its president suggested all of these cats should be kept inside during the pandemic.
You can see why the owners don't want them inside – and why the birds don't want them outside.
Whatever you do, don’t kiss your cat. Woof!