LONDON (Reuters) – A pet cat has tested positive in England for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the government said on Monday in the first confirmed case of an animal being infected with the virus in Britain.
The British environment ministry said “all available evidence” suggested the cat had contracted the coronavirus from its owners, who had both tested positive for COVID-19.
Both the cat and the humans made a full recovery and there was no transmission to any other animals or people in the household, the ministry said without identifying the individuals involved.
“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,” said Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England.
“The investigation into this case suggests that the infection was spread from humans to animal, and not the other way round,” Doyle added.
The government said the infection was confirmed in lab tests on Wednesday, adding there was no evidence that cats could transmit the virus to humans.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said cats are the most susceptible animal species to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and are able to transmit it to other cats.
“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,” Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said.
“This is a very rare event with infected animals detected to date only showing mild clinical signs and recovering within a few days.”
The WHO has said it will investigate the possibility of cat-to-human infection, but its chief scientist has said there is “very little risk” from domestic animals.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and David Holmes)