The British Veterinary Association [BVA] has issued new advice to pet owners after the virus responsible for Covid-19 was detected in a pet cat in England.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed the presence of the infection within the cat after tests were undertaken at the Animal Plant Health Agency [APHA] laboratory facility in Weybridge on July 22.
The samples from the cat, submitted by a private vet that tested for feline herpes, were found to have tested positive for the SARS-CoV 2 virus having been forwarded on to the APHA as part of a research programme.
The government has confirmed that the cat’s owners had previously contracted Covid-19, and it is likely that the cat caught the virus from them. Both the animal and owners have since made a full recovery and no staff at the veterinary practice where the cat was originally treated contracted the virus.
The veterinary practice staff were also found to be unaware of the fact that the cat’s owners had had coronavirus at any point in time.
In the wake of the news, the British Veterinary Association advises any pet owners who have coronavirus or are worried that they may have coronavirus to restrict contact with their pets as a precaution, and says that hand washing before and after any interaction with a pet must be practised. A face mask should also be worn when giving care to pets in these cases.
Pet owners who have or fear that they may have the virus are also advised to keep cats indoors if possible and arrange for another individual to exercise dogs. Any individuals walking dogs or other pets on someone else’s behalf should also adhere to good hygiene practices and keep contact with the pet at a minimum.
There is no evidence that pets can transmit Covid-19 to humans, but if a pet is showing signs of the virus in a household where the virus is or could be present, the BVA advises against taking a pet straight to a vet and recommends calling the practice first to alert them to the household’s status. Should the pet require essential treatment in these circumstances, the veterinary practice should be called for further advice, and the pet should not be taken to the vet unless instructed. It is recommended that another individual transports the pet to the veterinary practice should urgent treatment be required.
BVA president Daniella dos Santos commented: “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 hand washing.
“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 inside the house. 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.”