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A Covid-19 warning for pets

Precautions should be taken to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus from humans to the cat population, the government veterinarian has warned.

Jonathan Nisbett said there was no evidence that the coronavirus could be passed from pets to people — but animals have contracted it from humans in a handful of cases around the world and cats appeared to be the most at risk.

Dr Nisbett added: “There is evidence of human-to-animal transmission, with documented cases of dogs, cats, a zoo tiger and farmed mink having tested positive for Sars-CoV-2, following contact with humans known or suspected to be infected.

“All of these appear to be cases of human-to-animal transmission.”

He added that owners who contracted Covid-19 did not have to remove their pets from their homes, but should limit contact with them.

Dr Nisbett was writing in the summer edition of the Envirotalk newsletter.

He said: “When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be employed, including hand-washing before and after handling animals, their food, feed and water bowls, toys, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food.

“Of the domestic species found in Bermuda, cats seem to be most susceptible.”

He said that in laboratory tests, cats had been able to transmit the virus to other cats — a discovery that caused the British Veterinary Association to recommend that cats from a household with Covid-19 should be kept inside if possible.

Dr Nisbett agreed and said: “This will reduce the potential for spreading the virus among cats.

“The evidence of human-to-animal transmission and evidence of cat-to-cat transmission, are cause to recommend that infected persons and persons in Covid-19 quarantine must not participate in feeding of feral cats in Bermuda.

“An infected person may infect the colony of cats.”

He emphasised that the same precautions recommended for domestic animals should be used at feral cat feeding stations.

Dr Nisbett said it was possible that Covid-19 would spread to other species because of the wide distribution of the virus among humans, and that studies were still under way to understand the susceptibility of different species to the virus.

But Dr Nisbett added: “Our pets and livestock present no Covid-19 risk to people.

“This pandemic is not cause to abandon or reject our animals from our households and lives.

“In fact, they may be a source of comfort during this period of uncertainty and stress.”

He said that vets around the world had helped the fight against Covid-19 and donated personal protection equipment and their professional expertise.

Dr Nisbett added: “Veterinary laboratories were sought out for their equipment and skilled staff to conduct Covid-19 tests on human samples, thus increasing Covid-19 testing capacity and surveillance.

“Veterinary epidemiologists have been supporting their counterparts in the public health agencies to track the disease in humans and to support the development of an effective public health response.”

Protect the vulnerable: the Bermuda Government veterinarian, Jonathan Nesbitt, reports that there have been instances of humans passing the novel coronavirus to cats and advises families to maintain some distancing from their pets if it has been diagnosed (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 27, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 27, 2020 at 7:43 am)

A Covid-19 warning for pets

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