The British Government wondered if it would have to put down all cats at one point in the pandemic, a former UK Health Minister has revealed.
James Bethell was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the UK Department of Health and Social Care just days before the first lockdown was declared.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, he revealed just how confused officials were about the spread of COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic.
"There was a moment when we were very unclear about whether domestic pets could transmit the disease [or not],” he said.
“In fact, there was an idea at one moment that we may have to ask the public to exterminate all the cats in Britain.
“Can you imagine what would have happened if we had wanted to do that?
“And yet for a moment there was a little bit of evidence about that. So, that had to be investigated and closed down.”
'Kindest to have them destroyed'
Such a cull would not have been without precedent; in the early days of the Second World War, the British Government distributed a pamphlet in which it urged pet owners to take radical action.
"If at all possible, send or take your household animals into the country in advance of an emergency," it urged.
"If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed."
Thousands of pet owners thought they had no choice but to euthanise their animals and as many as 750,000 were put down in a single week.
"Happy memories of Iola, sweet faithful friend, given sleep September 4th 1939, to be saved suffering during the war. A short but happy life - 2 years, 12 weeks. Forgive us little pal,” one death notice read.