‘No cuddling’: UK warns people after cat tests positive for coronavirus

WION Web Team
London, United KingdomUpdated: Apr 24, 2021, 11:13 PM IST


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This development comes after few kittens caught symptoms of coronavirus from their owners and signaled respiratory issues

UK authorities have warned cat owners who showed positive test results for COVID-19 to maintain distance from their pets and should avoid cuddling or touching them.

This development comes after few kittens caught symptoms from their owners and signaled respiratory issues.

Such two cases of human-to-cat transmission of coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, were identified by scientists at the University of Glasgow as part of a screening programme of the feline population in the UK. 

"There has been a very small number of cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 identified in domestic animals worldwide and it appears likely that the transmission was from infected humans to animals," Daniella Dos Santos, senior vice president at the British Veterinary Association, told The Daily Telegraph.

"Our advice to pet owners who have COVID-19 or who are self-isolating with symptoms remains to restrict contact with their pets as a precautionary measure and to practise good hygiene, including regular handwashing," Santos added.

The doctor advised to make sure pet parents wash their hands before and after any interaction with pets and suggested wearing face masks.

"If your pet shows any symptoms which you suspect may be caused by the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice first and alert them to the household's status," Santos advised.

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As per the scientific research, cats do not possess any threat to their owners as currently there is no evidence of cat-to-human transmission. 

However, the researchers doubt that pets could potentially act as a "viral reservoir" providing continued transmission and highlighted the need to improve understanding of whether they can possess any danger of infection. 

Professor Margaret Hosie, from the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research who performed the research, said: "Currently, animal-to-human transmission represents a relatively low risk to public health in areas where human-to-human transmission remains high.

"Whenever human cases decrease, the chance of transmission among animals becomes increasingly important as a potential source of SARS-CoV-2 reintroduction to humans.

"Thus we need to improve our understanding of whether uncovered animals may play any role in transmission."

The first case observed was of a four-month-old female Ragdoll Kitten where its owner developed corona-like symptoms in March 2020, though he never got himself tested. 

In April 2020, the Kitten was rushed to a vet following breathing difficulties but its situation worsened and it later had to be put down. A scan revealed viral pneumonia and SARS-CoV-2 in its lungs.

The other cat was a six-year-old female Siamese from a family where its owner was diagnosed with COVID-19. It was taken to the vet with nasal discharge and conjunctivitis. However, its symptoms were not serious and it survived. COVID-19 infection was subsequently confirmed from swabs.

Scientists think the two cases are an underestimate of instances of human-to-animal transmission, as animal testing is rare and restricted.

A lot of cats with COVID-19 symptoms have been reported around the world, who are assumed to catch symptoms from their respective owners.