Coronavirus and cats
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 some evidence that infected people can pass coronavirus to cats, but this is limited. To help reduce the spread of the virus, you should follow good hygiene routines, such as washing your hands before and after touching you cat, its food or its bedding. You should also avoid sharing good with your cat and avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you are self-isolating.
Washing your hands with soap and water after stroking your pet helps protect against viruses and bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella.
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, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. If you think you may have coronavirus, follow the latest advice found on the NHS website.
There is currently no Covid-19 vaccine available for use in animals, including dogs and cats.
Despite recent media reports, there is no evidence that animals can pass coronavirus to people. However, as a precaution you should follow good hygiene routines including washing your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food and bedding.
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.
If you have tested positive for 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)
- making sure their litter tray is in a quiet place where they can go in private
Read our tips on how to help your cat with change.
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, preferably in another home environment.
If you choose a cattery, cats coming from infected households should be kept in the cattery’s isolation facility as a precaution for three days. 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.
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.
If you have Covid-19 then, ideally, you should 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.
While veterinary practices can remain open, many vets are working within government restrictions and may not be able to see as many pets as usual. Routine appointments may 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 before seeing them. Social distancing rules continue to apply in urgent face-to-face appointments, which includes limiting the number of owners present for the consultation. In many 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.
Under government guidelines, you can leave your home for urgent veterinary services when you’re self-isolating, but you must only do this if it isn't possible for someone else to take them for you.
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.
If your pet is due to have their boosters or first inoculations, the BVA and RCVS have advised that vets are 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.
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 cat is unneutered, they should be kept indoors.
As long as your vet practice can carry out this procedure in a socially distanced way with no risk to public health, they will be able to microchip your dog. You will need to book an appointment before you go to the vet practice and speak with them about safety procedures that you’ll need to follow for the appointment.
If your pet is not yet 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.
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.
How your pet will be put to sleep 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 free and confidential Pet Bereavement Support Service is 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.
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.
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, some 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 by appointment only, providing social distancing measures can be applied and the pet is at least eight weeks old.
Do bear in mind that visits won’t be allowed during this time which makes it more difficult to spot bad and irresponsible breeders. If you do buy a pet, make sure 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.