Can animals catch Coronavirus (Covid-19)?

In July 2020, the government announced a cat in the UK has been diagnosed with Covid-19 for the first time. Find out more about how we can protect ourselves and our animals from the pandemic.

Updated 28-June 2021  | 5 min read

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Can pets catch Covid-19?

Yes – there have been a couple of cases where pets have tested positive for the virus. The first case of a cat catching Covid-19 in the UK was confirmed by the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 22 July 2020. 

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says that there's no evidence that pets are having an impact on the spread of the virus, but notes that both animals and people can be infected.

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) and British Government both acknowledge that while it's rare for animals to contract Covid-19, there is limited evidence to suggest human to animal infections are possible. They have specific guidance about ferrets, as infections in mink populations have shown that ferret to human transmission may be possible.

What does this mean for pet owners?

Try not to dwell on the possibility of your pet contracting Covid-19. The chances of animals getting it are low and it usually doesn’t affect them much.

If you’re a pet owner who has symptoms, avoid contact with your pets and other members of your household as much as possible.

If you have ferrets, you should take some extra precautionary measures and isolate your ferret for 21 days if:

  • You or a member of your household is self-isolating
  • You have recently traveled into the UK with your ferret

Are there any Covid symptoms in pets?

Fortunately pets appear relatively unaffected by Covid and show very few or no symptoms.

But if your pet does become visibly unwell then you should contact your vet. If you suspect they have coronavirus, call your vet for instructions, but don't bring them down to the practice.

Can pets carry coronavirus on their fur?

Animals can spread the virus through their fur, as with any surface. If a human with Covid touches, sneezes or coughs on a cat or dog, the virus can contaminate their fur. 

To minimise the risk of transmitting the virus, you should:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching an animal
  • Avoid close contact with pets from other households and stray animals

Will pet insurance cover my pet if they get coronavirus?

Yes, unless your policy states otherwise. 

Pet insurers have also put plans in place to support pet owners who make a claim during the pandemic. 

As access to vet surgeries is limited, insurance companies are partnering with vets to make sure your pets receive the treatment they need. 

What happens to your pet if you're hospitalised with Covid-19?

If you're hospitalised with coronavirus you'll need someone to take care of your pet while you’re away. 

Check your pet insurance policy – some cover boarding fees if you need to have a hospital stay. For example, some policies will pay up to £15 per day for either boarding or someone to look after your pet if you’re hospitalised for four or more days. 

Check with your insurer what is and isn’t covered by your policy. If your pet isn’t covered, then a friend or family member is the next best option. 

Is there a Covid-19 vaccine for pets?

No, there’s no vaccine available for pets. If you think your pet has Covid call your vet for advice – don’t take them to the surgery.

How can I prevent my family and pets catching coronavirus?

You should continue to follow social distancing rules, including the use of face coverings while in public. If you or a family member has any symptoms of coronavirus, they must self isolate for 14 days.

Can I take my dog out for a walk if I have Covid?

No. If you’re self-isolating, it’s recommended that you don’t leave your home for any reason – that includes walking your dog. Instead, play some games with your dog in your house or garden to help them get some exercise and burn off steam. 

Getting a pet during the pandemic

You should always think very carefully about getting a new pet and the long-term commitment. If you've been working from home and spending more time in the house, consider whether this is for the long term or whether you'll be going back to the office in a few months – who will look after your pet during the day then?

Heartbreakingly, Dogs Trust saw demand for puppies soar at the start of the pandemic, before a 41% increase to its 'Giving up your dog' page from August 2020 to January 2021 as people began to return to work after the first Covid-19 lockdown.

The pandemic has also caused dog prices to increase considerably, and the cost of insurance has climbed too – so make sure you take into account the long term costs and consider a rescue animal if you're in the market for a new best friend.