Pet cats and dogs living in Seoul, South Korea can now receive free tests for Covid-19 if they show symptoms or come in contact with an infected human. The move by the central government comes a few weeks after the country reported its first case of coronavirus in a kitten.
According to Yonhap news, the infected kitten was found at a religious facility in the southeastern city of Jiniu. Health authorities suspect that a mother and daughter staying at the facility, who were both tested positive for Covid-19, had passed the virus on to the kitten.
According to the new guidelines on virus tests for pets, animals who experience coronavirus symptoms will also have to be kept in quarantine at their homes or at a city-run facility for 14 days.
There’s no evidence yet that animals can transmit the virus to humans, the Seoul authorities say. But research has shown that cats may be able to carry the virus and pass it on to other cats. For now, since pets stay in close contact with humans all day it is best to get them tested early while we can.
The officials also recommended that pet owners keep their dogs or cats “at least two metres away from people and other pets when walking them.”
Globally, there is only a small number of pets that have been reported to be infected with the virus, including the United States. However, such cases are still rare.
The virus was also reported in certain wild animals who came in contact with infected zoo officials. Last month, two gorillas in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park contracted Covid-19 from a human handler.
Covid-19 has also been found in a number of other wild animals, including lions and tigers in the Bronx Zoo in New York and lions at Barcelona Zoo in Spain.