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Can cats catch coronavirus (COVID-19)? What can I do if I have to self-isolate? We’ve put together answers to some of the more common questions about coronavirus here.

I have read reports in the media about a cat getting coronavirus (COVID-19) from its owner. Do I need to be worried about transmitting the illness to my cat?

A recent report in Belgium stated that a cat owned by a woman with coronavirus (COVID-19) developed symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea and breathing difficulties and a type of coronavirus was detected in the cat’s faeces and vomit. This might be the first possible case of human-to-cat transmission and if so, is extremely rare.

There is still no evidence that cats can transmit the virus to humans and it is important that owners should not worry unnecessarily.

 As a precaution, it is advised that owners should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling their pet and those infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) should be particularly mindful by minimising contact.

I keep seeing mentions of 'Feline Coronavirus or FCov. What is Feline Coronavirus or FCov and should I be worried about my cat getting it?

It is important to note that Feline Coronavirus (FCov) is not associated with the current coronavirus epidemic.

It is a common, contagious virus that can be found in the faeces of cats. It is more common in multi-cat households and does not affect other animals or people. To find out more about Feline Coronavirus, read our essential guide below.

Find out more about Feline Coronavirus (FCov)

Do I have to keep my cat inside if I am ill?

If you’ve been diagnosed with, are suspected of having or are displaying characteristic symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is advisable to minimise the amount of time your cat spends outdoors unsupervised. If possible, keep your cat indoors if they are happy to be kept indoors. Ensuring your cat continues to get daily activity is important for their wellbeing. Try the following:

  • consider ways to play that do not involve direct contact with fur or saliva
  • try a fishing rod toy with feathers – allowing your cat necessary mental stimulation at a distance to you
  • if your cat does continue to play with catnip toys or balls, you should avoid touching these or thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling them
How to keep your cat entertained

I’m currently well. Do I need to keep my cat indoors?

If you’re currently well but in the vulnerable category set out by government – e.g: over the age of 70, have an underlying health condition or are in precautionary self-isolation, we’d recommend the same measures as for those with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you’re currently well and not in the vulnerable category there is no reason to restrict your cat’s outdoor access. However, don’t forget to maintain good hygiene, washing your hands with soap and hot water after handling your cat. Try to keep close interactions with your cat, such as petting, to a minimum if you can.

My cat isn’t neutered. Can they still go outside?

If you have a new cat or kitten that hasn't been neutered, we’d advise keeping them indoors to avoid the possibility of them having kittens at this time! Currently most vets are only doing urgent or emergency treatments and routine surgery, such as neutering, is not likely to be available. Any pregnancy in a cat always has an associated risk of complications and as access to veterinary care is limited at the moment, we’d advise that you avoid your cat getting pregnant (or for male cats, making another cat pregnant).

For this reason, if you have a male and female cat in your household and they are not neutered, you should keep them separated. Remember: this also applies to cats that are related, e.g brother and sister.

What do I need to do for my cat if I decide to keep them indoors all or part of the time?

Keeping a cat that usually goes outdoors confined indoors can be stressful and frustrating for the cat. It’s important to ensure your cat continues to get daily activity to help both their mental and physical wellbeing. The following tips will allow them to adjust to their temporary indoor life.

  • Invest in a fishing rod toy with feathers – this provides great exercise for your cat as well as mental stimulation as they try to ‘catch’ the feathers
  • Enrichment feeders are excellent boredom-busters as they make cats work to get their food - find out more here
  • Provide your cat with a place to hide and ideally somewhere to get up high – a cardboard box is a perfect hiding place
  • Cats restricted to indoors will each need a litter tray for toileting (plus one extra) - ensure it is cleaned regularly!
  • Also, provide your cat with at least one sturdy scratching post
  • You can also use synthetic pheromones such as FELIWAY®CLASSIC to help ease your cat’s stress from being confined. These are available as a plug-in diffuser or spray and help your cat feel more secure during times of stress
Find out more about how to keep your cat entertained

My cat needs to go to the vet. What should I do?

If you think your cat needs veterinary care you should call the practice for further advice in the first instance. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless your vet instructs you to. Currently, cats should only be taken to the vet for emergency treatment. If you are self-isolating you may need to arrange for someone else to transport your cat for emergency treatment.

I’m self-isolating due to coronavirus (COVID-19) and my cat needs to go to the vet. What should I do?

If you are self-isolating you will not be able to go to the vet with your cat for emergency treatment.  Phone the vet for advice and if the vet agrees to treat your cat, you'll need to arrange for someone else to transport your cat to the vet for you. In this case, we’d recommend the following tips:

  • create a plan with your friend or family member for them to contact you by phone as they arrive at your home – that way, you can leave your cat in your carrier outside your door and they can approach at a safe distance
  • your friend or family member might want to consider wearing gloves when they are handling the carrier and/or touching the cat
  • they’ll need to practice good hygiene after handling your cat and cat carrier. Advise them to wash their hands with soap and hot water thoroughly - even if they have been wearing gloves

Is it safe to stroke other people’s cats and/or let them in my house?

Because of the possibility of COVID-19 transferring from an infected person to the fur of a cat and because so little is known about how long the virus might survive on the fur we advise against stroking or picking up strange cats (eg in the street) or allowing other people’s cats, stray or community cats into your house. We know that some cats do like to live in several households and ‘visit’ but not allowing them in during the current crisis will minimise any risks of cats helping to spread COVID-19. 

Can I still feed community cats and/or feral colonies?

With the current restrictions on individual trips outside the house, any feeding of community, stray or feral colonies of cats could be incorporated into a daily walk for exercise if the cats live locally. If the cats are on your own land, eg they come into your garden, feeding can continue. In both cases take care to avoid any contact with the cats, such as stroking. In all cases ensure good hygiene, particularly washing your hands with soap and hot water.

Information is correct as of 30 March 2020. For up to date information on coronavirus, visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

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