This article was updated April 23.
Two domestic cats in New York State have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL).
The cats, who live in different areas of New York, underwent testing after showing signs of respiratory illness. Both are expected to make full recoveries.
“A veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild respiratory signs,” USDA said in a statement. “No individuals in the household were 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.”
The cases were discovered by reference laboratory, Antech Diagnostics, and reported to USDA. Confirmatory testing of additional samples was then conducted at NVSL.
There is no evidence suggesting pets can transmit COVID-19 to humans, USDA says, adding more testing is needed to understand how different animals could be affected by the virus.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says this finding does not alter its basic guidance for pet owners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We still have no information that suggests pets might be a source of infection for people with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19,” the association said in a statement. “At this time, routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended. Veterinarians should consult with public health and state animal health officials when deciding if animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2.”
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) stressed the need to ensure animal welfare.
“It is important 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 U.S. and therefore there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare,” the group says.
“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.”
Until more is known, 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 six feet from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where groups of people and dogs gather.
Additionally, if you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with pets just as you would with people. Specifically:
- Have another member of your household care for your pets, when possible.
- 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 face mask and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
For more information on animals and COVID-19, click here.