Coronavirus has been detected in a pet cat in the UK for the first time, it has been confirmed.
The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed the infection following tests at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge, England on July 22.
It is the first confirmed case of an animal infection with the coronavirus strain in the UK.
While the cat’s owners also tested positive for the virus, there is no evidence to suggest that the animal transmitted the disease to its owners, or that other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to people, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.
It is believed the cat contracted coronavirus from its owners, who had previously tested positive for Covid-19, they said.
The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Tests conducted by the Animal and Plant Health Agency have confirmed that the virus responsible for COVID-19 has been detected in a pet cat in England.
“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.”
Pet owners are encouraged to continue to wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
However, there confirmed infection is no cause for alarm, Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England.
She said: “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.
“The investigation into this case suggest that the infection was spread from humans to 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, the virus known to cause Covid-19 in humans, as part of a research programme.
Follow-up samples tested at the APHA laboratory in Weybridge confirmed the cat was positive for the coronavirus.
To date, there have been a small number of confirmed cases in pets in other countries in Europe, North America and Asia.