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2 New York Cats Are First US Pet Cases of COVID-19

Both had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery.

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U.S. health officials on Wednesday announced that they’d confirmed the coronavirus in two cats in New York state, the first pets in the U.S. to test positive for the infecton.

Both had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery, according to a press release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The animals were from separate parts of the state.

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Infections with the virus have been reported in “very few” animals worldwide, mostly in those that had close contact with a person with COVID-19. At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended, according to the release.

A veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild respiratory signs, the CDC stated. No one in the household was confirmed to be ill with COVID-19. 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.

Samples from the second cat were taken after it showed signs of respiratory illness. The owner of the cat tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the cat showing signs. Another cat in the household has shown no signs of illness.

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Both cats tested presumptive positive for the virus at a private veterinary laboratory, which then reported the results to state and federal officials. The confirmatory testing was conducted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories and included collection of additional samples.

The CDC stated: “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. 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.”

For now, 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), 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 Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council issued a press release on the findings, with CEO Mike Bober stating:

We at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council have learned from the public health experts at USDA and CDC of two confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in pet cats in New York state. It is important that the public remain confident in the USDA and CDC guidance that there continues to be no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States and therefore there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have safely brought pets into their homes both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the human-animal bond continues to provide them with comfort, stress relief and other scientifically-proven emotional and physical health benefits during this unprecedented crisis. The responsible pet care community is committed to protecting the health and well-being of humans and pets, and urges everyone to follow CDC’s advice to keep pets from interacting with people or animals outside your household, and to consult a veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pets’ health.

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Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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