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No, British Vets Are Not Telling Everyone To Keep Their Cats Indoors During The Coronavirus Lockdown

The British Veterinary Association only recommends cats from infected households, or ones where the owners are self-isolating, should stay indoors — if they're happy to stay.

Just so we're all clear, British vets are NOT saying everyone should keep their cats indoors. Got that?

The confusion kicked off on Wednesday morning when this article appeared on the BBC website.


The story was in the top five most-read on BBC News, meaning hundreds of thousands of people read the article and many more would have seen the headline.

The advice reached millions more people via BBC radio news bulletins that said “veterinary scientists are urging cat owners to keep their pets indoors during the coronavirus lockdown”.

This caused something of a panic.

Tumblr / Via Tumblr

And people were quite confused about exactly what the vets were advising.

@Vic_Gill @BritishVets This isn’t a useful article, in fact it will scare many pet owners which will lead to more abandoned pets. The way it is written gives conflicting advice!. Please re think about what message you are sending out to pet owners before publishing something like this

Just before 9am, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) put out a clarifying statement saying not everyone had to keep their cat indoors.

⚠️ Contrary to some news reports this morning, we're NOT advising that all cats be kept indoors during the #COVID19 pandemic. Only cats from infected or self-isolating households should be kept indoors as a precaution, if possible. Read our statement

Which was a rather different message to the one everyone had heard and seen on the BBC.

This is VERY different from the Radio 4 headline this morning quoting the BVA. Listen here:

It seems the confusion was born of the fact the BVA ~does~ recommend cats from infected households, or ones where the owners are self-isolating, should stay indoors — if they're happy to stay.

The @BritishVets has - since my story was published - corrected/clarified its statement saying the advice to keep cats inside was only for people with symptoms. I’ve updated the story accordingly. (3/5)

But during the interview, the BVA hadn't distinguished between those households and everyone else.

Please share. Clarification on advice about cats

And so an hour or so later, the BBC headline was changed to this one...

New BBC headline

And this line was added to the article...

altered text on bbc article

In a statement, a BBC spokesperson said: "We accurately reported comments made by the British Veterinary Association. They got in touch to further clarify their position and we were happy to update the piece accordingly.”

It left cat owners relieved, but annoyed.

@BritishVets Thank you for the clarification. I have just read the BBC article & was hugely confused as to the official advice. Well done @BBCNews - completely irresponsible reporting that will undoubtedly cause some idiots to dump their cats thinking they're a threat.

So it's settled — for *most* people staying at home today, your cat won't need to stay indoors with you.

As an aside, in case you're also worried about transmission, the British Veterinary Association has said: "It is very important that people don't panic about their pets. There have been a tiny number of cases of COVID-19 in animals, and in all cases, it is likely that the transmission was human to animal."

And so there we are. Goodbye.