Cat – UK

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Cat – UK

Added 25 November 2020

Hosie, M.J. et al. (2020) Respiratory disease in cats associated with human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK. bioRxiv. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.23.309948

This paper reports on findings from two cats from different COVID-19-infected households in the UK that were found to be have been infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Cat 1, a four-month-old female Ragdoll kitten, was presented to its veterinary surgeon on 15 April 2020 with dyspnoea and physical examination revealed signs of increased respiratory effort, increased respiratory rate and harsh lung sounds.  The owner had developed symptoms consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection at the end of March 2020, remaining symptomatic until 11 April 2020. Radiographic examination of the cat revealed an interstitial and alveolar pattern. The cat’s condition deteriorated, and the animal was euthanised on 22 April 2020.

Sections of lung tissue collected post-mortem displayed pathological and histological findings consistent with viral pneumonia and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 antigens and viral RNA was detected through immunofluorescence.

Infection of cat 2 was identified via a retrospective survey of oropharyngeal and/or conjunctival swabs collected from 387 cats with respiratory signs that had been submitted to the University of Glasgow Veterinary Diagnostic Service (VDS) between March and July 2020 for routine pathogen testing. Serum collected from the cat 8 weeks after the initial sampling tested seropositive by an independent laboratory confirming productive infection.   Cat 2, a six-year-old female Siamese cat had presented with bilateral yellow ocular discharge as well as a serous nasal discharge. One of the owners had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 at that time. The cat tested positive for FHV DNA as well as SARS-CoV-2 RNA; the cat’s clinical signs were consistent with FHV infection and therefore the SARS-CoV-2 infection might not have been related to the clinical signs that the cat displayed at the time of sampling.

Analysis of the feline SARS-CoV-2 genome from cat 2 demonstrated a high degree of sequence conservation with genomes derived from infected humans.

These findings indicate that human-to-cat transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, with the infected cats developing mild or severe respiratory disease. The authors suggest that appropriate surveillance studies are needed to determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in cats and whether future infections of cats represent spill over events from humans or are caused by sustained cat-to-cat transmission.

This study is a pre-print made available by bioRxiv, as such it is only a preliminary report and has not yet been peer-reviewed.


Added 28 July 2020

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for COVID-19, has been detected in a pet cat in the UK.

The cat was initially tested for and diagnosed with feline herpes virus, by a private vet, but the sample was also tested for SARS-CoV-2 by PCR as part of a surveillance project in a private laboratory. On receipt of the positive result, the private veterinary surgeon notified the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Follow-up samples tested at the APHA laboratory in Weybridge confirmed the cat was also co-infected with SARS-CoV-2. The original sample was retested positive, a new oral swab was negative, and the blood sample was positive to the virus neutralisation test. A second cat in the household was tested negative by PCR and virus neutralisation.

All available evidence suggests that the cat contracted the coronavirus from its owners who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery and there was no transmission to other animals or people in the household.

References

Any vet concerned about SARS-CoV-2 in an animal should follow the APHA guidelines which state that:

Testing for SARS-CoV-2 should only be undertaken where it is in the interest of the health and welfare of the animal and that private testing should only be considered in animals which meet all four of the following criteria:

a. The animal is a Felid, Canid or Mustelid. AND
b. It is exhibiting a combination of the following clinical signs as determined by a veterinary professional:

  • respiratory infection
  • gastrointestinal infection
  • fever

c. other common diagnoses have been considered and discounted as determined by a veterinary professional.
d. the animal has had confirmed contact with a suspect or known human case of COVID-19 within three weeks of developing clinical signs.

Reports of a positive result should be communicated to the competent authority. This should be made as soon as possible by telephone using the number for the administration in which the tested animal resides:

i. England: Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301
ii. Wales: Animal and Plant Health Agency Regional Office Wales on 0300 3038268
iii. Scotland: your local Field Services Office

  • Ayr 03000 600703
  • Galashiels 03000 600711
  • Inverness 03000 600709
  • Inverurie 03000 600708
  • Perth 03000 600704

iv. Northern Ireland: DAERA on 0300 200 7840 / 0300 2007852 or contact your local Divisional Veterinary Office

Full details can be found in the APHA. Briefing Note 18/20. SARS-CoV-2 in Animals – Case Definition, Testing and International Reporting Obligations. 2020. Available at:
http://apha.defra.gov.uk/documents/ov/Briefing-Note-1820.pdf [accessed 28 July 2020]

Government advice for animal owners can be accessed here:

ENGLAND https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-people-with-animals [accessed 28 July 2020]
WALES https://gov.wales/advice-pet-owners-coronavirus-covid-19 [accessed 28 July 2020]
SCOTLAND https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-animal-owners/ [accessed 28 July 2020]
NORTHERN IRELAND https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/covid-19-horses-pets-guidance [accessed 28 July 2020]

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