The feline is believed to have caught the virus from its owners, all of whom have made a full recovery. The animal, which is said to have only experienced mild symptoms, is not believed to been involved in transmitting the disease to its owners or other humans and animals.
The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Prof Christine Middlemiss, said that there was still no evidence that pets could transmit the disease to humans. The infection was confirmed following tests at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge last Wednesday.
She said: “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 it was a reminder for people to wash their hands after contact with animals. “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,” she said.
“The investigation into this case suggests that the infection was spread from humans to the animal, and not the other way round. At this time, there is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans.”
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 infected with Covid-19.
A small number of cases of animals infected with Covid-19 have been reported globally, including a number of tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York.