According to public records in the US, there are only 17 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in pet cats.
But the latest findings out of Wuhan, by researchers at Huazhong Agricultural University, indicate the level of infection in companion animals is likely much higher.
More cats might be positive than first believed after the study found that up to 15% of house-cats in Wuhan caught coronavirus from their humans.
Researchers took samples from 102 cats in Wuhan after Covid-19 first emerged.
What they discovered was surprising.
15 of the cats had antibodies to SARS and coronavirus, even though none had displayed any symptoms.
Researchers now think that all cats, whether strays or pets, can catch the virus from humans.
They encourage Covid-19 patients to be cautious around their pets and implement the same preventive measures they employ with humans, such as hygiene, distancing and quarantine.
Lead author Meilin Jin said: “Measures should be considered to maintain a suitable distance between Covid-19 patients and companion animals such as cats and dogs.”
Like other studies looking at transmission of the coronavirus from one species to another, this paper is observational and is therefore unable to conclusively prove that cats infect humans, or vice-versa.
This comes as a pet cat has become the first animal in the UK to be diagnosed with Covid-19, it was revealed today.
Officials believe the cat – which wasn’t identified but lives in England – caught the virus from its owners and “not the other way round”.
Downing Street said the pet suffered from nasal discharge and some shortness of breath, a symptom that also strikes humans.
Both the cat and its owners have made a full recovery and there was no transmission of the virus to other animals or people in the household, health bosses said.
Experts have today warned Britons with the virus to avoid cuddling their pets.