A pet cat has tested positive in the UK for the strain of coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic.
Experts say it is the first confirmed case of infection in an animal in the UK but does not mean the disease is being spread to people by their pets.
It’s thought the cat caught coronavirus from its owner, who had previously tested positive for the virus. Both have now recovered.
Health officials stress the case is very rare and no cause for alarm.
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UK chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss said: “This is a very rare event, with infected animals detected to date only showing mild clinical signs and recovering within in a few days.
“There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and will update our guidance to pet owners should the situation change.”
Yvonne Doyle, Public Health England’s director for health protection, advised people to wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
An animal’s fur could carry the virus for a time if a pet were to have come into contact with someone who was sick.
A private vet initially diagnosed feline herpes virus – a common cat respiratory infection – but the sample was also tested for Sars-Cov-2 as part of a research programme.
There has been a very small number of confirmed cases in pets in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.
Daniella Dos Santos, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “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.”