A gourmet cat food for pampered pets sparked an outbreak of a deadly strain of tuberculosis which affected about 50 animals and at least two of their owners, veterinary scientists believe.
The “natural” Wild Venison cat food was recalled nationwide by Natural Instinct, which marketed it as a healthier option to regular pet food.
The issue first came to light when six cats were taken to separate vet practices across England.
Tests confirmed they were infected with bacteria which usually caused TB in cattle, but could also infect other animals such as rodents and deer.
A further seven cats living in the same households were also found to be infected.
All of the animals were exclusively indoor cats, which meant they could not have been passed the infection through contact with wildlife or livestock.
The one thing the cats did have in common was that they had all eaten the Wild Venison product sold by Natural Instinct, vets at the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies found.
Professor Danièlle Gunn-Moore, of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said: “We found circumstantial evidence that these cases of TB in cats were linked to a particular brand of raw food diet.
“Not all animals that are infected with the bacteria will develop disease but we would encourage owners with concerns about their pets to get them checked by their local vet.”
Natural Instinct, which recalled the product in December 2018, stated on its website that it stopped selling the product immediately after being informed by the Food Standards Agency “of the problem of lack of inspection”.
A spokesperson from Natural Instinct added: “We can assure our customers that Natural Instinct followed, and continues to follow, every food standard, hygiene regulation and best practice required to produce raw pet food in the commercial market place.
“Even though we no longer manufacture and sell the venison cat product, we are continuing to work with the Food Standards Agency and all necessary organisations. Not only as part of the investigation into the venison cat food product, but to ensure the highest standards continue to be met across the industry.”
A report on the first six cases is published in The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.
Since its publication, the outbreak has continued with researchers receiving reports of cats with bTB in 30 households across the UK.
They have had to test 90 felines and refer 100 people for tests.
Two people were also found to be infected with the disease, according to the Sunday Times.