Cat owners in the UK are being warned to avoid feeding their fluffy feline’s any raw chicken amid reports of a bird flu outbreak in Poland.

It’s also been advised that cats should not be allowed to prey on water birds, the government has said.

The advice comes as 25 cats died in Poland last month following an outbreak of bird flu (also known as avian influenza) in Poland, meaning scientists and public health officials are on alert due to the “increasing threat to mammals” from the virus, the i newspaper reports.

Clydebank Post: Some of the symptoms of bird flu include aching muscles and headachesSome of the symptoms of bird flu include aching muscles and headaches (Image: Owen Humphreys/PA)

Cat owners in the UK urged to avoid feeding their pet raw chicken amid bird flu outbreak in Poland

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) isn’t suggesting cats in the UK must stay indoors and says that the risk to cats is “very low”, but people should still take “reasonable precautions” to limit any threat of the virus spreading.

It added that preventing cats from having contact with wild birds such as preying on waterfowl and preventing them from feeding on raw poultry or water birds, could reduce the risk of catching bird flu.

A Defra spokesperson said: “The latest evidence suggests that the avian influenza viruses we’re seeing circulating in birds do not spread easily to people, and there is no evidence that pet cats or dogs are infected in the UK at present.”

Can humans get bird flu?

Bird flu can affect humans but it depends on the strain of the virus, the NHS has said.

There are many different types of bird flu viruses and many of them don’t infect humans. However, there are four strains that have caused concern in recent years

  • H5N1 (since 1997)
  • H7N9 (since 2013)
  • H5N6 (since 2014)
  • H5N8 (since 2016)

The NHS says although H5N1, H7N9 and H5N6 don't easily infect people and aren’t usually spread by human contact, there have been several people infected around the world, resulting in a number of deaths.

The H5N1 virus is the most prevalent strain in circulation at the moment.

For the first time in February 2021, H5N8 was found to have infected a small number of people in Russia.

What are the symptoms of bird flu?

The main symptoms of bird flu can appear very quickly, reports the NHS, and include:

  • a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery
  • aching muscles
  • headache
  • a cough or shortness of breath

Other early symptoms may also appear within three to five days after you have been infected, such as diarrhoea, sickness, stomach pain, chest pain, bleeding from the nose and gums and conjunctivitis.

More severe complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome can develop days after initial symptoms.

How does bird flu spread to humans?

The virus can be spread by close contact with an infected bird that is dead or alive.

This includes:

  • touching infected birds
  • touching droppings or bedding
  • killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking

How to prevent bird flu

If you are visiting an area or foreign country that has recently had an outbreak of bird flu, you can follow these steps to prevent your chances of getting the virus.

The NHS says:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially before and after handling food, in particular, raw poultry
  • use different utensils for cooked and raw meat
  • make sure meat is cooked until steaming hot
  • avoid contact with live birds and poultry

Use NHS 111 online ( or call NHS 111 if you experience any symptoms of bird flu and have visited an area affected by bird flu in the past 10 days.