Cats and dogs have given pet owners loyalty, company and joy with many choosing to welcome a pooch or kitten into their homes during lockdown. However, owners who have Covid-19 can actually pass the virus on to their pets, new research suggests.
Scientists in the Netherlands tested 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households. Six cats and seven dogs (4.2 per cent) had positive PCR tests and 31 cats and 23 dogs (17.4 per cent) tested positive for antibodies.
Researches have now urged pet owners who have Covid-19 to avoid contact with their pets while they are infected. There are fears that cats and dogs could act as a 'reservoir' for coronavirus which could then be reintroduced to humans.
Dr Els Broens, from Utrecht University, said: "If you have Covid-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people.
"The main concern, however, is not the animals' health - they had no or mild symptoms of Covid-19 - but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population.
"Fortunately, to date no pet-to-human transmission has been reported.
"So, despite the rather high prevalence among pets from Covid-19 positive households in this study, it seems unlikely that pets play a role in the pandemic."
Eight cats and dogs - that lived in the same homes as other cats and dogs that tested positive - were tested a second time by researchers to see if the Covid-19 virus was transmitted among pets. None of the eight animals tested positive, suggesting the virus was not passed between pets in the same home.
The research was presented at European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) but has not yet been published in a journal. It was led by Dr Broens.
People across the country chose to welcome a fur baby into their homes to keep them company during lockdown.
Pets at Home's CEO Peter Pritchard said during an interview with the BBC's Today programme last year that the pet care market has been "incredibly strong" throughout lockdown, with animals playing an "incredibly important role" through a period of "social loneliness".
Insurance company Towergate also noted a rise in people looking for pet insurance in since February. After surveying 1,000 of their customers, 76 per cent agreed that their pets helped with their mental health.