Coronavirus and cats

Coronavirus and cats

Our coronavirus information on this page is written in line with guidelines issued by the Westminster government for England. Rules are largely the same for all areas of the UK but if you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, regulations may differ. Be sure to keep an eye on your local news for any regional changes in government guidelines too. Our advice is a guide for pet owners and should not be taken as legal advice. Alongside government advice, we are giving suggestions from Blue Cross experts to help pet owners apply the new measures to caring for their pets. We are updating this advice as frequently as possible, so please keep checking back.

Government guidance states that it is rare for an animal to catch coronavirus. If they do contract the virus, they often only show mild symptoms and are better within a few days. There is no evidence to suggest that pets directly transmit the virus to humans.

There is also no evidence to suggest that this coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) is circulating between pets in the UK. All available evidence indicates that the spread of coronavirus in the UK is due to human-to-human transmission.

It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after stroking your pets for protection against viruses, and bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella. Government guidelines advise cat owners to wash their hands before and after touching their cats, or handling their food.

There is no evidence that washing your cat controls the spread of the virus and you must only use products that are made for pets if you do decide to bath them.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in animals.

Covid-19 is a new strain of the coronaviruses that, like seven other strains throughout history, is thought to have made the jump from animals to humans, though the exact source of this strain is still under investigation.

The most common human symptoms are a high temperature and a continuous cough. This virus can cause pneumonia, coughing, fever and difficulty with breathing and, in extreme cases, death. If you think you may have coronavirus, follow the latest advice found on the NHS website.

Covid-19 is a coronavirus that is affecting humans. Cats can suffer from other coronaviruses, including the often-fatal feline infectious peritonitis, which is caused by a feline coronavirus, however this is not the same strain of the illness that is causing the current global human pandemic.

Can I give my cat coronavirus ?

A pet cat in the UK has tested positive for coronavirus. The cat lived in a household with people who had also tested positive for coronavirus, and it is believed the owners passed the virus to their pet. The cat and their owners have all made a full recovery. No other pets or people in the household became infected, and staff at the veterinary practice where the cat was treated for another illness were not impacted.

There is no evidence in the UK of cats passing Covid-19 to other cats or people. This case suggests it is possible for cat owners to pass coronavirus to their pet cats, however the government has said this case is “very rare”.

Where cats have tested positive for Covid-19, their symptoms have been mild and short-lived.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, try not to touch your cat. We know this is easier said than done and going without cuddles for a while will be upsetting, but you can help to protect your cat by not fussing them while you are unwell.

Can my cat go outside ?

If you and your household are healthy and do not have any coronavirus symptoms, your cat can continue to go outside if this is part of their usual daily routine. Some news reports have suggested all cats should be kept indoors, however the British Veterinary Association is advising this only for cats in households that are self-isolating either because someone in the household has coronavirus, or has symptoms of coronavirus.

Keeping your cat’s routine as close to normal as possible will help to prevent them from becoming stressed, which can lead to problems such as toileting issues. There is no evidence to suggest the UK cat who tested positive for the virus that causes Covid-19 passed it on to any other pet or to any humans. All the evidence suggests the cat contracted coronavirus from their owner. 

If you have coronavirus or have symptoms of the virus, the government is asking that you and your household self-isolate. Veterinary authorities in the UK are advising that cats in self-isolating households should be kept indoors for this time. This is because pet fur is just like any other surface that the virus can live on, and touching surfaces where the virus is present is one way in which the disease spreads among people.

If your cat usually has access to the outdoors, being asked to stay indoors will disrupt their daily routine. To keep your cat happy, there are ways you can ensure their natural instincts and behaviours can be met inside, including:

  • Giving your cat safe access to climb up high
  • Using treat balls to make dinnertime more interesting (here’s how to make them at home using bits and bobs you already have around the home)
  • Playing games with your cat to keep them mentally stimulated (make this toy from a sock, or try making this wand)
  • Ensuring their litter tray is in a quiet place where they can go in private

I have an indoor cat, how can I reduce the risk of coronavirus?

There is no evidence that SARS CoV-2 is circulating in the UK animal population. However, it’s good practice to keep your cat’s food and litter areas clean. Keeping your cat mentally stimulated will keep active minds busy, too.

Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling your cat too – this helps keep the spread of any viruses or bacteria to a minimum.

Is it safe to put cats in a cattery?

If you are unwell and unable to provide your cat with the care they need, it is a good idea to make alternative arrangements for someone to look after your pet.  Although there is no evidence that cats carry the virus, it can sit on their fur, as it can on human hands. Carriers should therefore be disinfected when the cat is picked up from the home, or gloves used. Owners should not hand over any other equipment – instead, the facility should provide it. If that is not possible, everything should be washed with soap and water and left to dry outside. 

You will need to make an appointment to drop off and pick up your cat so that you, the cattery staff, and other cat owners can follow social distancing. When you pick your cat up, you will be asked to put your own cat inside your carrier to take them home.

Cats should be wiped down with a pet-safe wipe or damp cloth before leaving the home and on arrival at the cattery. A cattery should make sure their pens are always kept clean and hygienic. Normal handwashing precautions must always be observed.

Cats should not mix between households at the cattery, for both infection control reasons and for the cats’ welfare. 

How to protect your cat from coronavirus

If you have Covid-19 then, ideally, you’ll restrict contact with your cat ie no kissing, cuddling or stroking.
If you have sole responsibility of your cat with no help, then be sure to wash your hands before and after handling them and wear a facemask.

Can I still take my cat to the vet?

While veterinary practices can remain open under new government rules to limit the spread of coronavirus, animals can only be seen in person, emergencies. Routine appointments have been put on hold, with online or phone consultation services being offered by many vets instead. 

You will need to discuss with your vet whether preventative care, such as vaccinations and neutering, is an urgent priority for your pet. They will assess this on a case by case basis as per advice from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the UK’s veterinary governing bodies.

If you think your pet needs to be seen as an emergency case, contact your vet. Social distancing rules continue to apply in urgent face-to-face appointments, which includes limiting the number of owners present for the consultation. In most cases owners will be asked to wait outside the building while their pet is treated. Policies between veterinary practices may vary. Keep an eye on your vet practice’s social media, as many practices are putting up to date information for clients on their Facebook pages.

Can I still get the medication my cat needs?

Urgent medication and treatments for your pet may be prescribed through remote consultations while strict social distancing measures are in place. Your vet will advise you how you can collect the supplies, as procedures vary between practices.

My cat’s vaccinations have expired, what do I do?

If your pet is due to have their boosters or first inoculations, the BVA and RCVS have advised that vets may be able to carry these out if they believe them to be essential to your pet’s welfare but, like everyone else, vets have to follow the current government guidelines on Covid-19 prevention.

They will assess each case on an individual level and proceed if they consider the benefit to animal welfare to be greater than the risk to human health. 

If you’re unable to get to your vet and your pet is unvaccinated, has had an incomplete primary course or is due to have a booster they may not be fully protected so should not walk on, or come into contact with surfaces in public areas. It is still safe to carry your pet in your arms or take them out in the car. If your pet is affected by this, take a look at ideas for indoor play and exercise

Can I get my cat neutered? 

Pets will be assessed on a case by case basis to see if neutering is an essential treatment for your pet’s welfare, under new advice from the BVA and RCVS. This will take into consideration their general health and if they live with other unneutered pets of the same species and opposite sex.

If you’re unable to get to your vet, or they are not providing this service and your pet is unneutered, they should be kept away from public areas and cats should be kept indoors. 

Can I get my pet microchipped?

The BVA and RCVS have advised that microchipping can be carried out on your pet if they are already booked into your vet for essential treatment.

If your pet is not booked in, speak with your vet about how to keep your pet safe and be sure to keep their collar ID tag up to date with your name and address.

What measures are in place for euthanasia of pets?

The decision to euthanise your pet can be an extremely difficult one to make, and your vet will continue to do everything they can to guide you through this sad process. Current guidelines say veterinary consultations should be given without the owner present, and this includes those in which pets will be put to sleep. This is to comply with social distancing measures. Some vets are able to sedate pets with the owner present first in order to reduce stress for the animal. This will depend on the individual pet’s case and the vet’s discretion and facilities, so speak to your practice for further advice on this. Our Pet Bereavement Support Service remains open to calls and emails, so please do get in touch if you need help coming to terms with pet loss at this difficult time. 

What’s the impact on my pet insurance?

With many vets operating on an emergency only basis, you may be concerned with making a claim on your insurance. Normally, many policies become invalid if your pet is not up to date on routine care, such as vaccinations.

During this time, many insurance companies have agreed to take a flexible approach on policy requirements. The Association of British Insurers, which many pet insurance companies are members of, has said it recognises this is an unprecedented time and has advised insurers to be flexible where government restrictions mean pet owners are unable to get to a vet for their pet’s annual vaccinations, health check and dental examination.

Many insurers are also offering additional support through any claims to customers who are worried about the health of their pet during this difficult time.

If your pet is due their booster vaccinations, and you’re concerned as to how this may affect your policy, it’s best to call your insurance provider directly and discuss this with them.

For pets that are due their initial vaccinations, speak to your vet, as this will also have an impact on when they’re allowed out of the house.

Is now a good time to get a kitten?

With plenty of time at home, many people may think now is an ideal opportunity to welcome a kitten into the family. Breeders are being advised not to breed kittens at the moment. There are, however, many existing litters of kittens already born and ready to be re-homed now or in the near future, and delaying this could potentially jeopardise their future welfare. You can travel to collect your kitten from the breeder’s home, providing social distancing measures can be applied and the pet is at least eight weeks of age. 

Do bear in mind that visits won’t be allowed during this time which makes it more difficult to spot bad and irresponsible breeders. Ensure, if you do buy a pet, that you can have at least one ‘virtual’ visit in which you can see the kittens with their mother, and follow our guidance on buying a pet and questions to ask breeders. All paperwork should be done remotely in advance of drop off, and prior advice given on food and equipment needed.

We will be updating this advice as more information becomes available.