On Saturday May 2, the Alfort veterinary school (EnvA) in Val-de-Marne, near Paris, confirmed it had identified the first national case of a cat becoming infected with the virus. The cat is strongly suspected to have caught the virus from its owners, who had symptoms and tested positive for Covid-19.
The case was confirmed in a study by the virology research unit EnvA, and health agency Anses (l'Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement et du Travail), and national agriculture research agency l'Institut National de Recherche pour l'Agriculture, l'Alimentation et l'Environnement (Inrae) alongside prestigious research centre l’Institut Pasteur in Paris.
The study included around a dozen cats that had been in contact with owners suspected to have Covid-19, through the participation of vets based in the Ile-de-France region.
Each cat was swabbed for a PCR test to check for the SARS-CoV-2 infection, the results of which were then confirmed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) for l’Institut Pasteur.
The cat in question tested positive on a rectal swab (a nasal swab on the animal had tested negative). The cat showed clinical signs of respiratory and digestive problems, EnvA said.
A previous study by the same group showed that cats are not easily infected by the virus, even when they are in close contact with infected humans.
However, EnvA has now advised cat owners who have Covid-19 to limit close contact with their pet, to wear a mask in their presence, and to wash their hands before stroking, touching or picking up their animal.
Cats are not thought to be able to spread the virus to humans or otherwise worsen the spread of the infection.
In a report of a study published on April 20, Anses concluded: “[as far as we know] there is no proof that pets and farm animals play a role in the epidemic spread of SARS-CoV-2”.
There have only been four confirmed cases worldwide of cats having caught the virus from humans; in the US, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Wuhan, China (the original epicentre of the outbreak).
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