China Kills 3 Pet Cats Which Contracted COVID Amid Fears They Would Spread Virus to Humans

China killed three pet cats after they tested positive for COVID-19 amid fears they would spread the virus to humans, according to a local media report Wednesday.

China has been taking strict measures to combat the virus, and authorities in the city of Harbin said the action was necessary. There is no available treatment for animals with COVID-19 and they posed a danger to their owner and other residents in the apartment complex, Beijing News online said.

There have been 75 virus cases recently discovered in Harbin, including the cats' owner who tested positive on Sept. 21. She went into isolation after leaving food and water out for the cats.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Cats COVID-19 China
Three housecats were euthanized after testing positive for COVID-19 in a Chinese city, according to a local media report. Local authorities said the action was taken as there is no treatment for animals with the virus and they posed a danger to their owner and other residents of the apartment building where they lived. Getty Images

A community worker dropped in and gave the cats coronavirus tests, which twice came back positive. Despite an online appeal by the owner, identified only as Miss Liu, the cats were put to sleep Tuesday evening.

Pet ownership is increasingly popular in China, and the newspaper's report on the case drew more than 52,000 comments.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of animals spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people is "considered to be low," although it is known to be transmissible from people to animals in some situations, especially when there is close contact.

COVID-19 has been reported on mink farms in several countries, including cases in which it was suggested humans might have been infected by the animals, prompting mass culls of the animals.

"People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should avoid contact with animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife," CDC said on its website.

"At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role" in spreading the virus to people, it said.

"Some coronaviruses that infect animals can be spread to people and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with SARS-CoV-2, which likely originated in bats," the CDC said.

The theory that the virus was passed from bats to humans, possibly through an intermediary species such as a pangolin or bamboo rat, has been strongly favored by scientists studying the origins of COVID-19, which was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Animal rights group PETA said animals should be treated "just as humans should be treated" and that it has seen no evidence that humans have caught the virus from cats.

"PETA urges guardians to protect themselves and their animal companions by taking basic precautions: If you aren't shaking someone's hand, that person shouldn't be petting your dog or cat, either," it said.

The killing of the cats is an example of the sometimes extreme measures China has taken to control the virus, even when infection rates remain far below those in other countries.

Lockdowns, mask-wearing, mass testing and high vaccination rates have been credited for suppressing new infections.

On Wednesday, mainland China reported just 11 new locally transmitted cases, eight of them in Harbin and three in the eastern city of Xiamen, both of which have had recent outbreaks.

China currently has 949 patients being treated for COVID-19. It has reported 4,636 deaths from the illness among a total of 96,106 reported cases.

Health officials on Wednesday said China has fully vaccinated more than 1 billion people out of a population of just over 1.4 billion.

China COVID-19 Testing
A city in northern China has euthanized three housecats after they tested positive for COVID-19, according to a local media report. In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a worker in protective clothing handles COVID-19 test samples in Bayan County of Harbin city in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via AP