The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed that the virus responsible for COVID-19 has been detected in a pet cat in the UK.
The infection was confirmed following tests at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (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, there is no evidence 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 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 there was no transmission to other animals or people in the household.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said:
Tests conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency 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 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, Medical Director at Public Health England, said:
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 suggest 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.
In line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, you should wash your hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
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-CoV2 which is the virus known to cause COVID-19 in humans.
Pet owners can access the latest government guidance on how to continue to care for their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.
The case has been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health in line with international commitments. There have been a very small number of confirmed cases in pets in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.
Notes to editors:
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has also produced a factsheet outlining the latest science on infection in animals which can be accessed here.