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Vet Services issue COVID pills for cats

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Unused human COVID-19 medicine for cats infected by feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) has been approved by the Council of Veterinary Medicinal Products.

The pharmaceuticals are available by appointment at the District Veterinary Offices.

The government has designated the Veterinary Services to allocate stocks of antiviral pharmaceuticals offered by the Ministry of Health for treating cats suffering from FIP.

COVID drugs have been delivered to the Veterinary Services by the Ministry of Health and made available by the local District Veterinary Offices via appointment arranged in advance.

Appointments can be arranged by calling the local numbers of the District Veterinary Offices (Famagusta 24 824555, Larnaca 24 821275, Nicosia 22805241, Limassol 25 819512 and Paphos 26 821261).

COVID drugs will be given to the owner/caretaker of the animal, based on a prescription issued by the private veterinarian, who should state the details of the owner/caretaker and the animal, accompanied by the results of laboratory tests confirming the cat suffers from FIP.

The pills cost €100 per package of 40 tablets and/or €2.50 per tablet, and the ministry is making 80,000 pills available.

FIP is a viral disease caused by a specific strain of coronavirus that only affects cats.

The infestation of cats and the development of the virus progressively lead to the animal’s death.

According to Veterinary Services, compared to 2022, there is a significant increase in the frequency of cases of cats being affected by FIP.

The island’s Cat Protection and Welfare Society (PAWS) recently claimed that about 300,000 domesticated and stray felines had perished due to galloping FIP transmission rates since January.

Local veterinarians described the figure as “an exaggeration”, putting it instead at 8,000 deaths in the first half of 2023, but have not disputed the severity of the outbreak.

Although the mutated feline virus is unrelated to Covid-19 and cannot be contracted by humans, molnupiravir, the active ingredient in anti-Covid pills, has proved beneficial to cats diagnosed with FIP.

Shed in the faeces of infected cats and then spread through contact, feline coronavirus was first recorded in the 1960s. Outbreaks of FIP, though rare, have previously occurred in the UK, US, Taiwan and Greece but were always confined to catteries.