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Vets offer reassurance after pet cat tests positive for COVID-19 in the UK

BVA emphasises that there continues to be no evidence that infected pets can pass COVID-19 to their owners

27 July 2020, at 3:00pm

The BVA has issued advice for pet owners after it emerged that the virus responsible for COVID-19 had been detected in a pet cat in England, in the first such known case in the UK.

A statement issued by Defra on 27 July said that the infection was confirmed following tests at the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge on 22 July.

A private vet diagnosed the pet with feline herpes, a common respiratory infection in cats, but the sample was also tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus as part of a research programme. Follow-up tests at the APHA laboratory confirmed that the cat was simultaneously infected with this virus.

The government has emphasised that all available evidence suggests that the cat contracted the Coronavirus from its owners, who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and no other animals or people in the household were affected.

Staff at the veterinary practice where the cat was treated were aware of the household’s COVID-19 status and were not impacted by the virus.

Responding to the news, BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“While pet owners may be worried by this news, we’d like to emphasise that there continues to be no evidence that infected pets can pass COVID-19 to their owners. There have been a tiny number of cases of COVID-19 in domestic animals worldwide and in all cases, it appears likely that the transmission was from infected humans to animals.

“We have been in touch with vets in Government and the local veterinary practice for information and have been informed that the cat only showed mild clinical signs and has since made a full recovery.

“Our advice to pet owners who have COVID-19 or who are self-isolating with symptoms remains to restrict contact with their pets as a precautionary measure and to practise good hygiene, including regular handwashing.

“We also recommend that owners who are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 should keep their cat indoors if possible, but only if the cat is happy to be kept indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors due to stress-related medical reasons.

“It is also the case that animals may act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. That’s why good hand hygiene remains important.”

BVA has issued the following advice for pet owners confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19:

  1. Restrict contact with pets as a precautionary measure.
  2. If your pet requires care, wash your hands before and after any interaction with them and wear a face mask if possible.
  3. Keep cats indoors if possible, and only if they are happy to be indoors. Try to arrange for someone else to exercise dogs, taking care to restrict any contact with the person walking your dog and making sure they practise good hand hygiene. This is to reduce the likelihood of your pet spreading the disease through environmental contamination on their fur – there is no evidence that pet animals can pass COVID-19 to humans.
  4. If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice first and alert them to the household’s status.
  5. If your pet requires essential treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.

More BVA guidance for pet owners is available online.

The latest government guidance on how to continue to care for pet animals during the Coronavirus pandemic can be viewed online as well.