Cats in Cyprus are being given human COVID-19 medicine in an effort to slow the spread of a feline mutation of the virus that has left thousands of animals dead on the island.
Cats began getting the medicine on Tuesday, which coincidentally was International Cat Day.
Speaking to The Guardian, Christodoulos Pipis, the government’s veterinary services director, said: “We have taken stock of 500 boxes of medication.
“This is the first batch of 2,000 packages that will be made available. Each one contains 40 capsules, so we are talking about a total of 80,000 pills.”
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which cannot be transmitted to humans, has been spreading among the island’s cats since January.
It is not related to COVID-19 but can be treated with a medication called Lagevrio, which is used to treat coronavirus in humans.
Dinos Ayiomamitis, head of Cats PAWS Cyprus, previously told Sky News the outbreak would have “catastrophic” consequences if it reached the UK.
Mr Ayiomamitis and other animals activists have said the virus has killed around 300,000 cats on the island.
Costas Himonas, senior pharmacist at the Cyprus health ministry, has said 2,000 packages of the drug will be made available to vets incrementally over the next month.
Mr Himonas said there is no risk that current pharmaceutical stocks will be depleted to the point that treatment of any COVID-19 surge in people would be compromised.
FIP has been around since 1963 and is spread through contact with cat faeces.
If left untreated, it can be fatal for the animals.