The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has made clear that only cats from households with people infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), or people who are self-isolating, should be kept in doors. The announcement followed a BBC story, published on 8 April 2020, the headline of which suggested that all cats should be kept in doors due to risk of spreading the virus. But the BVA said that that it was "very important" that people don't start panicking about their pets.
— BritishVets (@BritishVets) April 8, 2020
"We are not advising that all cats are kept indoors. Only cats from infected households or where their owners are self-isolating, and only if the cat is happy to be kept indoors. Some cats cannot stay indoors due to stress-related medical reasons", BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said in a statement released via their website and on social media, the same day as the BBC story.
The UK-based charity points out that there isn't any evidence that pets are passing the virus to their owners. “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", they stated. The BVA added that while dogs with the novel coronavirus don't seem to be symptomatic, cats, on the other hand, "can show clinical signs of the disease".
However, the BVA statement did make clear that animals can carry viruses in their fur, just like other surfaces such tables, banisters and doorknobs. The vets therefore stress that their "main advice" is for pet owners to ensure they keep up with good hygiene practice in their homes and with their pets. “[A]s a precaution, for pet owners who have Covid-19 or who are self-isolating we are recommending that you keep your cat indoors if possible, during that time", the statement suggests.