Unused coronavirus medication for humans will be made available to treat cats in Cyprus, where they have been dying in their thousands from feline Covid, officials announced Thursday.

The government gave the green light in line with a recommendation from the agriculture ministry.

A strain of coronavirus – feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), not transmittable to humans – has been wreaking havoc on the prolific cat population of the Mediterranean island.

"Stocks of preparations that were used to treat human coronavirus cases and are no longer used can be made available," the cabinet said in a statement.

The medication in the form of anti-Covid pills will be supplied through the veterinary services.

Animal activists have warned that Cyprus was turning into an island of dead cats, assessing the disease has likely killed much of its million-strong population.

But the island's veterinary association argues that reports of up to 300,000 cats dying is an exaggeration, putting the number at under 10,000.

Legend has it that a Roman empress, Helena, first brought cats to Cyprus to combat poisonous snakes about 1,700 years ago

But archaeological evidence of cats' domestication on the island dates back to 9,500 years ago at the Neolithic village of Shillourokambos, where the remains of a cat and a human were found deliberately buried together.

© Agence France-Presse