A domestic cat was diagnosed with coronavirus in the county of Surrey, southern England, becoming the first pet to test positive in the United Kingdom, the British Department of Environment and Animal Health reported today.
The animal infected the coronavirus from its owners, who live in the town of Weybridge.
The agency reported that the pet was initially diagnosed by a private veterinarian with the feline herpes virus, a common respiratory infection in these animals, but the sample was also tested for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes the Covid-19 in humans, as part of a research program.
Although this is the first confirmed case of an animal infection with the coronavirus strain in the UK, there is no evidence to suggest that the animal was involved in transmitting the disease to its owners or that pets or other domestic animals may transmit illness to people.
“All available evidence suggests that the cat contracted its owners’ previously positive coronavirus. Since then, the cat and its owners have fully recovered and there has been no transmission to other animals or people in the home,” the Department of Environment and Animal Health said
Veterinary Director Christine Middlemiss said this is a very rare event in which infected animals detected to date only show mild clinical signs and recover 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 update our guide for pet owners if the situation changes.”
Meanwhile, Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, also noted that this is the first case of a domestic cat testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, but it should not be cause for alarm.
He argued that the investigation of this case suggests that the infection spread from human to animal and not vice versa.
Like Middlemiss, he agreed that at this time there is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans.
The case has been reported to the World Organization for Animal Health in line with international commitments.
A very small number of confirmed pet cases have previously been reported in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.