Picture of vet taking throat swab from domestic cat for Covid-19 test

This photograph shows a veterinarian and assistant taking a throat swab (oropharyngeal swab) at a clinic in Cairo, Egypt from a domestic cat because it is a requirement for travel. The photograph is by Maya Alleruzzo and circulated by the agency AP. Testing, in fact, requires more than one swab. It requires swabs from the nose, the mouth, and the conjunctiva of the eyes. It also requires fecal testing I am told (Veterinary Specialist Dr. Melissa Salgado). Testing is not recommended in the USA because it is more invasive than for people.

Picture of a throat swab taken by 2 veterinary staff at a Cairo clinic to test for Covid-19 as it a requirement for travel. Photo: Maya Alleruzzo.

I think the picture is very relevant at the moment as there is a lot of talk about 2 cats in the US getting Covid-19 and the experts believe that they contracted the virus from either their owner or someone in the neighbourhood or perhaps a family member. We don’t know but what they seem sure about it that the cats got it from humans. That’s the direction of travel of the virus in this istance. It is currently believed that domestic cats and dogs don’t transmit it to humans.

At the moment all is calm on this matter and it may – and I hope it does – stay that way. There is no need to do anything differently. However, I think we should keep in the back of our minds the possibility that if there is a second or third spike of infections that we may have to restrict contact between humans and companion animals which would be almost impossible if not truly impossible to carry out and enforce. It is a wait and see situation.

The Bronx tigers and lions also got the disease from humans so there appears to be good evidence that this form of transmission can happen. All the infected cat showed mild symtoms especially the domestic cats and they are expected to fully recover. It is a question of whether governments start to factor in companion animal infections such as testing pets. There is certainly no need to panic or any way change one’s companion animal caretaking duties at this stage.

P.S. The assistant is holding the cat very tightly. The cat is an all-grey cat. Both men are very focused. It may be difficult to take this swab as it appears to be taken from the back of the throat which will be uncomfortable for the cat who might wriggle free. Hence the firm grip.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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