Health officials are warning Nebraska pet owners to take precautions if they’re sick with the new strain of the flu, as a test confirms a pet ferret in Nebraska caught H-1-N-1 from its owner. Veterinarian Dr. David Schmitt says a housecat in Iowa is also confirmed to have caught H1N1 from its owner.
“Certainly influenza viruses can be transferred to other species,” Dr. Schmitt says, “so while people are ill, they need to take proper precautions.” Dr. Schmitt says ferrets and cats are “social creatures” and people who are sick with H-1-N-1 — or any serious illness — should try to minimize contact with their pets.
“Cats do sleep on owner’s bed, in bed with them,” Schmitt says, “even in the chair when they are sitting watching TV and they’ll come up and cuddle and want attention.” In early October, another pet ferret in Oregon tested positive for H-1-N-1.
“Ill individuals just need to be aware that no matter what disease it is, there certainly is a possibility that a specific disease may be transferred to their pet or other animals,” Schmitt says.
It’s not just cats and ferrets who can catch what the flu from their owners. “There are several species of animals where influenza viruses can be transferred to and there’s many different strains,” Dr. Schmitt says. “There’s like 16 ‘H’ types that are out there.” The 13-year-old Iowa cat who tested positive for H-1-N-1 has recovered, as have his owners.
Pets who get sick with H-1-N-1 may not cough, but they exhibit other symptoms like lethargy. “A responsible owner should contact their veterinarian,” Dr. Schmitt says.