Pet cat first animal confirmed to have coronavirus in UK

Officials have not released the identities of the cat and its owners (Picture: Getty)

The UK’s first confirmed animal infected with Covid-19 has been recorded in a pet cat.

The cat caught coronavirus from its owners who had previously tested positive for the virus, said Public Health England (PHE). Their pet later also tested positive at the Animal and Plant Health Agency laboratory, in Weybridge, Surrey, on July 22.

A private vet had initially diagnosed it with feline herpes virus – a common cat respiratory infection – but the sample was also tested for SARS-CoV2 as part of a research programme. Samples confirmed the cat was also co-infected with SARS-CoV2, which is the virus known to cause Covid-19 in humans.

The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and there was no transmission to other animals or people in the household, added PHE. Officials said although the cat caught the virus from its owners, there is currently no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 can be transmitted from animals to humans.

There have been a very small number of confirmed cases in pets in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

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Following the announcement, PHE urged the public to continue washing their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.

The cat received a positive test result at the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Weybridge (Picture: APHA)

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 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.’

Medical Director of PHE, Yvonne Doyle, said although this is the first first case of a domestic cat testing positive in the country it ‘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,’ she added. ‘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.’

Government advice on how pet owners can care for their animals during the pandemic can be found here.

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