ATHIS-MONS, France (CBS) — Papille meows and purrs contentedly as her owner rubs the back of her head, her coat glossy and her eyes piercing gree– back to her old self after recovering from COVID-19.
The nine-year-old cat is the first known case of a pet being infected by the coronavirus in France. There have only been a handful of other known cases globally. The likely source of infection is her owners, who were diagnosed with coronavirus themselves.
At first, the owners didn’t know what was wrong with her but she looked ill. As Papille’s state worsened over the days, they started to link the cat’s symptoms to those described in COVID-19 human sufferers, and their intuition turned out to be correct.
Owner Brian asked Reuters not to reveal his surname after the family received hate messages on social media following the cat’s illness. He first showed COVID-19 symptoms in late March. The petrochemical plant employee was signed off work and self-isolated at home where he lives with his parents. Several days later his mother Florence had a high fever and felt drained. Her test returned positive.
As Florence recovered in bed, Brian said Papille would snuggle up to her. Then Papille fell ill.
Papille was tested at a leading national vet school on the southeastern edge of Paris which harbors a virology research center. Renaud Tissier, science director at the Alfort National Vet School, said such cases remained very rare and called on pet owners suffering from COVID-19 to practice distancing from their pets as they would with humans.
Tissier said a second cat had been found positive in southern French town of Toulouse but that so far there had not been any case of animal to human transmission– only animal to human.
Brian and his parents praised the vet who looked after Papille. Today, the disease is well behind them and with the coming hot weather, the only worry is who will get the best chair in the garden.