COVID-19 confirmed in pet cat in the UK

27 July 2020

The UK’s CVO 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 APHA laboratory in Weybridge on 22 July.

Although this is the first confirmed case of a pet animal infection with the coronavirus strain in the UK, there is no evidence to suggest that the cat was involved in transmission of the disease to its owners or that pets or other domestic animals transmit the virus to people. Currently, all available evidence indicates that human-to-human transmission is responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the UK. In line with general public health guidance on coronavirus, people are advised to wash their hands before and after being around or handling animals or their food.

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.

A vet in private primary care practice initially diagnosed the pet with feline herpes virus, a common feline respiratory infection, and 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-CoV2 which is the virus known to cause COVID-19 in humans.

The case has been reported to OIE in line with international commitments. There have been a very small number of confirmed cases in pets across Europe, North America and Asia.

Defra are advising pet owners to contact their vet if they are concerned about their pet because it has respiratory signs, digestive problems and a temperature and the vet will decide if coronavirus testing is required. In addition, pet owners can access the latest government guidance on how to continue to care for their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vets in practice may wish to be aware of any updates to Briefing Notes on the APHA Gateway here and in particular, Briefing Note 18/20 which outlines the requirements vets in small animal practice should fulfil when undertaking testing or reporting results available here.

BSAVA information for vets on COVID-19 testing is available here. 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. Further veterinary advice on COVID-19 is available here.

The full Release issued by Defra/APHA on 27/07/20 is available here. Defra will continue to monitor the situation closely and will update guidance should the situation change.

General resources on COVID-19 are available on the dedicated BSAVA website here.