BSAVA President comments on the first case of COVID-19 confirmed in pet cat in the UK

BSAVA President, Professor Ian Ramsey has commented on the Defra announcement of the first confirmed case of a pet cat infected with COVID-19 in the UK.

BSAVA President, Professor Ian Ramsey said: “A very small number of cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in pets worldwide and pet owners should not be unduly concerned. 

“If pet owners have any concerns about their pet, in particular if they are showing signs of respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, they should contact their vet who can advise them on the best course of action and decide if any testing is required.

“Vets in practice can access BSAVA’s Guidance on COVID-19 testing for pets on the BSAVA dedicated COVID-19 website. The Guidance outlines what vets can do if they have a suspected case of COVID-19 in a pet and it should be read in conjunction with APHA advice for vets.”

BSAVA information for vets on COVID-19 testing is available hereand further veterinary advice on COVID-19 is available here

Defra’s announcement makes clear that there is no evidence to suggest that the cat was involved in transmission of the disease to its owners or that pets can transmit the virus to people.

Currently, all available evidence indicates that human-to-human transmission remains the primary means of spread of COVID-19 in the UK.

A vet in private primary care practice initially diagnosed the cat with feline herpes virus, a common respiratory infection, through the diagnostic laboratory at Glasgow University. The sample was also tested for SARS-CoV-2 as part of a wider research programme by the Centre for Virus Research at Glasgow University. 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.

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.

In line with general public health guidance, people are advised to wash their hands before and after being around or handling animals or their food.