COVID-19 and Pets: Belgian Cat Tests Positive

30 March 2020

The Belgian Government’s Federal Agency for Safety of the Food Chain (FAFSC) has reported a cat has tested positive for COVID-19. The owner of the cat has also tested positive for COVID-19.

The cat started to show clinical signs one week after the owner returned from Italy. These included vomiting, diarrhoea, coughing and superficial breathing. PCR testing detected the virus in the cat’s faeces and vomitus. It began to recover nine days after first showing clinical signs. Given the owner had tested positive, they were self-isolating and remaining at home in-line with Belgian Government guidelines.

FAFSC’s Scientific Committee currently considers the risk of transfer from humans to animals to be low. Whilst the Committee were not in a position on the basis of current data to fully assess the risk of risk of transfer from animals to humans, it considered this risk negligible compared to the risk of human-to-human transmission.

The Committee recommended that owners who have tested positive for COVID-19 should avoid close contact with their pet as much as possible and adhere to good hygiene practises, such as hand washing before and after contact with their pet and after handling its belongings or its food and drinking bowls.

The Committee’s Report can be found here.

Current evidence indicates only three known cases where pet animals have tested positive for COVID-19, the cat in Belgium and two dogs in Hong Kong. Human-to-human transfer of the virus is still considered the main route of spread of the disease. There should be no reason for pet owners to relinquish or abandon their pets.

See our previous BSAVA news articles on the cases in two dogs in Hong Kong here.

Please visit our dedicated BSAVA webpage for regular updates on COVID-19.