Clarity on Covid-19 pet advice

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08 April 2020
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Today has seen some conflicting advice hit the headlines about how cat owners should look after their pets.

A BBC news story suggested that cats should be kept indoors — but the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has moved quickly to explain that their advice was misunderstood and it is not advising that all cats be kept indoors.

The BVA have released a statement to clarify the advice, and is available below. But first we look at the important messages. 

Key things cat owners need to know about Covid-19:

Can cats go outdoors throughout the Covid-19 pandemic?

  • The BVA does not recommend all cats are kept indoors.
     
  • It is recommended cats are kept indoors by the BVA, if members of the household are infected with Covid-19 or are self-isolating — this only applies if the cat is happy to stay indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors due to stress-related medical reasons.

Can animals get Covid-19?

  • There are a very small number of cases of the disease in animals, states the BVA. It is believed this was transmitted from humans to animals.

Can pets transmit Covid-19 to humans?

  • The BVA emphasises that there is no evidence that a pet infected with Covid-19 can transmit the disease to humans.
     
  • Pets could potentially spread the disease — as the virus could be on their fur, similar to other surfaces such as doorknobs — explains the BVA. That’s why it is recommending owners who have the virus or are self-isolating keep their cats indoors — it minimises the risk of it being spread.
     
  • It is important owners continue to practise good hygiene and wash their hands regularly.

There is no reason for cat owners to panic or abandon their pets. Following these guidelines and maintaining good hand hygiene will help minimise the spread of the disease, as experts continue to learn more about the virus.

The BVA full statement reads:

 “It’s incredibly important that information and advice for the public is clear and we regret that this story will have caused worry and upset amongst cat owners. 

“We are not advising that all cats are kept indoors. Only cats from infected households or where their owners are self-isolating, and only if the cat is happy to be kept indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors due to stress-related medical reasons.

“There have been a tiny number of cases of Covid-19 in animals and in all cases, it is likely that the transmission was human to animal. There is no evidence that pets can pass Covid-19 to their owners.

“From the small number of cases it appears that dogs do not show symptoms, but cats can show clinical signs of the disease.

“It is also the case that animals can act as fomites, as the virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs. That’s why our main advice for pet owners continues to be to practise good hand hygiene.

“And, as a precaution, for pet owners who have Covid-19 or who are self-isolating we are recommending that you keep your cat indoors if possible, during that time.

“It is very important that people don’t panic about their pets. There is no evidence that animals can pass the disease to humans.”

- BVA President Daniella Dos Santos.