A pet cat has become the first feline in France to be infected with a coronavirus.
As a result, veterinarians are now recommending that people limit contact with their pets.
The case was confirmed on Saturday by the virology research unit of the National Veterinary School of Alfort, in Val-de-Marne, near Paris.
They tested “about 10” felines who had been in contact with owners suspected of contracting COVID-19. The national health agency ANSES also worked on the file.
A pet cat has become the first feline in France to be infected with a coronavirus (stock image)
The cat is thought to have caught the virus from its owners, both of whom tested positive for the coronavirus.
France is now joining the United States, China and Belgium on the list of countries where cats have been confirmed infected with the virus, but scientists say that felines cannot transmit the disease to humans.
The first cat in the world to confirm the disease was a cat in Belgium in late March. Then soon after, a pet cat in Hong Kong tested positive.
In mid-April, two pet cats tested positive for coronavirus in New York State, the first pets in the United States to contract the infection.
In France, a DNA test was carried out on each cat and the World Organization for Animal Health confirmed the results for the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
The cat initially tested negative for COVID-19 on a rectal swab, but a nasal swab and a DNA test revealed that it was infected with the disease.
The Alfort veterinary school said it also had “clinical signs”, including respiratory problems and “digestive problems”.
Sophie Le Poder (photo), a professor of virology at the institution and co-author of the study, said: “We were very selective in our research and tested a dozen well-targeted animals”
The veterinary school recommends that owners limit contact with their pets and wear protective equipment such as a mask when near them. They should also wash their hands before and after touching the animal.
The school said in its statement that “human-to-cat transmission is rare but distance is recommended”.
Sophie Le Poder, who is a professor of virology at the institution and co-author of the study, said: “We were very selective in our research and tested a dozen well-targeted animals. “
She added that they were continuing their study on pets that may have been infected with the virus.