At the beginning of the corona pandemic, the British government apparently considered killing all domestic cats. Conservative politician James Bethell told Channel 4 News: "In fact, for a moment there was an idea that we needed to ask the public to eradicate all cats in Britain. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had done that?” When the pandemic broke out in 2020, very little was known about the disease. "There was a moment when we were very unclear about whether pets could transmit the disease."
Bethell, a Member of the House of Lords, served as Deputy Secretary to then Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the Department of Health in 2020 and 2021. According to Britain's PA news agency, he said there had been some evidence for a while that should have been investigated. According to the Guardian, cat owners were warned in July 2020 not to kiss their pets.
It was previously revealed that a Siamese cat was the first known animal in the UK to be infected with the disease. Margaret Hosie, Professor of Comparative Virology at the University of Glasgow, advised cat owners at the time "to pay close attention to hygiene," the Guardian reported.
In England, one tomcat in particular enjoys cult status: The tomcat Larry has resided in Downing Street, the seat of government, for more than twelve years as the "top mouse catcher in the United Kingdom". On his satirical account on Twitter, which mostly mockingly comments on political events in the name of the cat, a reaction promptly followed on Wednesday evening: "It's difficult not to take that personally," it said there with a view to Bethell's statement that the killing of the cats had been considered.
In fact, according to a study published in June 2022, the coronavirus can probably be transmitted from cats to humans. Scientists described a case in Thailand in which a veterinarian contracted the virus in August 2021. She had treated and sneezed on a cat that had tested positive in the southern Thai city of Songkhla. However, scientists emphasize that the virus is transmitted significantly more frequently from humans to cats than in the opposite direction. In Denmark, millions of mink were killed during the pandemic due to concerns about transmission of the disease.