The UK’s CVO has confirmed that the virus responsible for COVID-19 has been detected in a pet cat in the UK.
Infection was confirmed following tests at the APHA laboratory in Weybridge on Wednesday 22 July.
Although this is the first confirmed case of an animal infection with the coronavirus strain in the UK, no evidence exists to suggest that the animal was involved in transmission of the disease to its owners, or that pets or other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to people.
The advice from Public Health England is for people to wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
All available evidence has suggested 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 transmission to other animals or people in the household occurred.
CVO Christine Middlemiss said: “Tests conducted by the APHA have confirmed that the virus responsible for COVID-19 has been detected in a pet cat in England.
“This is a very rare event, with infected animals detected to date only showing mild clinical signs and recovering within a few days.”
Humans to animal
Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle added: “This is the first case of a domestic cat testing positive for COVID-19 in the UK, but should not be a cause for alarm.
“The investigation into this case suggests that the infection was spread from humans to animal, and not the other way round. At this time, there is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans.”
The pet cat was initially diagnosed by a private vet with feline herpes virus – a common cat respiratory infection – but the sample was also tested for SARS-CoV-2 as part of a research programme.
Follow-up samples tested at the APHA laboratory in Weybridge confirmed the cat was also co-infected with SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus known to cause COVID-19 in humans.
The case has been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health in line with international commitments.
A very small number of cases in pets have been confirmed in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.