Coronavirus: Cat owners urged to keep pets inside if they are isolating to help stop spread

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Vets have recommended that cats may need to stay indoors during the coronavirus crisis. (Getty/stock photo)

Cats from infected or self-isolating households should stay indoors to help stop coronavirus spreading, vets have recommended.

According to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), cat owners are not at risk of catching COVID-19 from their pets – but it could carry from hands to fur.

Encouraging owners to take “sensible precautions”, BVA president Angel Almendros told the BBC: "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."

The BVA highlighted how cat fur can carry coronavirus if they come into contact with someone who has it. (Getty/stock photo)

A cat in Belgium has tested positive for coronavirus a week after its owner showed symptoms, and a tiger at the Bronx zoo in New York City caught the virus from an asymptomatic keeper and subsequently infected six other big cats there.

However there is currently no evidence to show that animals can pass the disease on to people.

The BVA highlighted that cat fur can carry coronavirus if they come into contact with someone who has it.

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Almendros said: "Treat pets like other people in your household. So if you're feeling sick, it's better not to interact with them.”

The recommendation comes as researchers have found that exploitation of wildlife by humans through hunting, trade, habitat degradation and urbanisation facilitates close contact between the two, increasing the risk of virus spillover.

Published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the research highlights how the processes that create wildlife population declines also enable the transmission of animal viruses to humans.

Lead author Christine Kreuder Johnson said: "Spillover of viruses from animals is a direct result of our actions involving wildlife and their habitat.

"The consequence is they're sharing their viruses with us.

"These actions simultaneously threaten species survival and increase the risk of spillover.

"In an unfortunate convergence of many factors, this brings about the kind of mess we're in now.”

Domesticated animals, including livestock, have shared the highest number of viruses with humans, with eight times more zoonotic viruses compared to wild mammalian species, according to the study.

This is likely a result of our frequent close interactions with these species for centuries, researchers say.

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