Cats And Avian Influenza, Defra Urgently Seeking Further Independent, Scientific Advice, UK
However, it is possible for cats that have had direct contact with infected birds or infected bird carcases to be infected with the virus in areas where high numbers of wild birds have died from avian influenza H5N1.
Current knowledge indicates that avian influenza H5N1 infection has never been transmitted to humans from animals other than domestic poultry. Natural infections in carnivores such as cats appear to be self-limiting and have not led to any significant increase in the risk to animal or public health.
Surveillance of wild birds indicates that we do not have avian influenza H5N1 in the United Kingdom and there is no reason for pet owners to take any additional precautions at this time.
There is absolutely no reason for anyone to abandon their cats, dogs (or any other pet) because of any fears or worries of infection from avian influenza. The welfare of pet animals is seriously compromised when they are abandoned and they are at risk from starvation or accident and are more vulnerable to disease.
In the event of highly pathogenic avian influenza being found in domestic poultry or wild birds in this country, an area at highest risk would be defined around where the virus was suspected or confirmed. Pet owners within this zone would be advised to keep their cats indoors and to exercise their dogs on a lead.
Defra is preparing further more detailed guidance to pet owners which may be modified in the light of any further scientific advice.
Defra is in regular contact with animal welfare (RSPCA, Blue Cross), conservation (RSPB), veterinary groups (British Veterinary Association) and others to keep this issue under close review.
If pet owners are concerned about the health of their animals, they should consult their veterinary surgeon.
A Statement of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on the cat case in Germany is available (links to EU website).
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