Coronavirus warning: Why scientists are telling cat owners to keep their pets indoors

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Coronavirus warning: Why scientists are telling cat owners to keep their pets indoors 1

Dr Angel Almendros, from City University in Hong Kong, told BBC News: “There isn’t a single case of a pet dog or cat infecting a human with COVID-19.”

To prevent any risk of pets carrying the virus from owners’ hands in their fur, British Veterinary Association (BVA), president Daniella Dos Santos encouraged owners to take “sensible precautions”.

She said: “Practise good hand hygiene, try and keep cats indoors.

“Avoid unnecessary contact with your pets, such a hugging or allowing them to lick your face, and do not touch other people’s dogs when on walks.”

Dr Angel Almendros, in a recent paper on the subject, cited the case of a 17-year-old pet dog in Hong Kong that tested positive for COVID-19.

Thought to be infected by its owner, the dog was later released from testing after being cleared of the virus.

Shortly after its release, the dog tragically passed away, likely as a result of the stress induced from the testing process, vets in Hong Kong claimed.

Dr Almendros said: “But even where we have these positive results, the animals are not becoming sick.

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More recently was news that tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York had contracted the virus from a worker who was carrying the virus but was asymptomatic.

“It is interesting to note in the experimental evidence that cats can become infected, alongside the apparent infection of a tiger,” Prof Bryan Charleston, director of the UK’s Pirbright Institute, which specialises in the study of infectious disease, said.

All of this has led the “evidence on the transmissibility” building up a solid case.

Moreover, there is also evidence humans can transmit respiratory infections to wild great apes.

This makes the global spread of the virus a particular concern for conservationists working to protect endangered wildlife around the world.

In all of the mentioned cases, infected humans are the animal that pose the biggest threat to other species.

Prof Charleston said: “We know that the virus did make the jump from an animal into humans (at the beginning of this crisis) but that appears to be because people were eating those infected animals.”

Relating the information back to cats, the British Veterinary Association draws attention to how an animal’s fur could carry the virus for a time “if a pet were to have come into contact with someone who was sick”.

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