Two pet cats in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to federal officials, marking the first confirmed cases of pets getting the COVID-19 bug that has plagued more than 890,000 Americans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture released a joint statement announcing the positive tests earlier this week, where they said both cats had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make full recoveries.
The cats, which live in different households in New York State, come after seven tigers and lions had positive tests at the Bronx Zoo earlier this month.
In one case, the feline’s homeowner tested positive for COVID-19, according to officials, which suggests that the virus can possibly be transmitted by household members to pets.
“… 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 USDA said in a statement. “The virus may have been transmitted to this cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home.”
The CDC said that there’s no evidence that pets play a role in the spreading of the virus, but did issue new guidelines to follow – including if you are sick with COVID-19:
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), 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.
A recent study published in Science magazine found that only some animals are highly susceptible to COVID-19 including cats and ferrets, but the virus doesn’t replicate as well in dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks.
Younger cats, in particular, are more vulnerable to the virus, according to the study.