Post-mortem testing on Negrito, a four-year-old cat that was euthanized after being taken to the vet suffering from severe heart disease, revealed that the feline was a victim of the coronavirus.
La Vanguardia newspaper reported that the owner of the cat had died from the virus and that several other people in the household had also been taken ill.
The cat suffered from a pre-existing medical condition quite common in felines known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
He was admitted to an emergency animal hospital with breathing difficulties, a high temperature of 38.2C and heart failure where it was determined that he should be euthanized.
An autopsy performed by Barcelona’s Centre for Research into Animal Health (IRTA-CReSA) detected SARS-CoV-2 virus from samples taken from the cat’s nose and digestive tract.
“The viral load was low and none of the lesions he presented were compatible with the infection caused by the virus. The cat was already suffering from cardiomyopathy and later became infected with SARS-CoV-2, ”said Joaquim Segales, a researcher at the CReSA and professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
“He is a collateral victim of the disease in humans,” he added.
It is not the first time a cat is known to have contracted the coronavirus from humans. So far five other pet cats around the world have reportedly tested positive as well as a group of eight lions and tigers at New York’s Bronx Zoo.
But in all other cases the animals have shown only mild symptoms of respiratory disease and have recovered without problems.
Compared to the nearly four million confirmed cases of people infected with coronavirus worldwide infected, the number of animals with the virus is very small and Natàlia Majó, director of CReSA-IRTA urged pet owners not to be too worried.
“The likelihood of a person infecting a cat is extremely low,” she told La Vanguardia.
Scientists say it is extremely unlikely that cats or dogs could pass the virus onto humans but the general advice is to avoid contact with pets from outside your own household and to wash your hands if you do so.
The RSPCA advises people that it is best avoid kissing your pet, just in case.