NEW YORK – Two domestic cats in New York state have contracted the new coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Wednesday. Officials say these are the first pets in the country that have tested positive for the virus.
The USDA says very few animals in the world have become infected with this virus. Most that have tested positive were in close contact with a person with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
According to a statement, both cats that have test positive had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery. Officials say the felines live in two separate areas of the state.
Officials say a veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild respiratory signs. No individuals in the household were confirmed to be ill with COVID-19. The virus may have been transmitted to the cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home, the USDA says.
As for the second cat, the USDA says samples were taken after it showed signs of respiratory illness. The owner of the cat had tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the animal showing signs. However, another cat in the home has shown no signs of illness.
At this time, officials say routine testing of animals is not recommended. State animal health and public health officials will determine whether animals should be tested.
“Public health officials are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States,” wrote the USDA. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected.”
Until more is known about the relationship between the virus and pets, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), the USDA says to restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people:
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
The USDA noted that performing animal testing doesn't reduce the availability of tests for humans.
"The U.S. government remains committed to increasing nationwide COVID-19 testing for Americans," wrote the USDA. "In fact, the United States has conducted more than four million COVID-19 tests for humans, which is more tests than the following nations combined: France, the UK, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, Austria, Australia, Sweden, and Canada.