A pet cat has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the first confirmed case of animal infection in the UK, the British government said on Monday.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and there was no transmission to other animals or people in the household, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a statement.
The cat probably contracted the CCP virus from its owners, who had previously tested positive for COVID-19, DEFRA 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,” Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said.
Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said the case 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,” she said. “At this time, there is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans.”
Pet owners are advised to follow the general advice on fighting the CCP virus and wash their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.
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 the CCP virus as part of a research program.
After testing the samples, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) laboratory in Weybridge confirmed on July 22 that the cat had contracted COVID-19.
Around the world, there have been a small number of confirmed cases in animals.
A study published in April found cats are highly susceptible to the virus and can infect each other via respiratory droplets.
In April, several tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York also tested positive for the CCP virus.
Earlier this month, health authorities in Spain ordered the culling of all 93,000 mink at a farm after discovering that most of the animals there had been infected with the CCP virus.