Two pet cats in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in companion animals in the United States, federal officials said Wednesday.
The cats live in different parts of the state, and both showed symptoms of mild respiratory illness and are expected to recover, the agencies said in a statement.
One cat is owned by a person who tested positive for the coronavirus before the cat showed signs.
But the other cat lives in a household where no members had confirmed cases of the virus. It is possible this cat was infected by a household member who was only mildly ill or asymptomatic, the statement said.The finding, which comes after positive tests in some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide.
U.S. authorities, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.
The cat’s positive tests came a little more than two weeks after another New York cat, a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, became the first confirmed coronavirus case in a U.S. animal. Four other tigers and three lions at the zoo also tested positive, the zoo said Wednesday.
The agencies have recommended that any pet owners with Covid-19 avoid petting, snuggling or other contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.
There have been a handful of reports outside the U.S. of pet dogs or cats becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March.
Outside the United States, a small number of pets have tested positive — two dogs and one cat in Hong Kong and a cat in Belgium. The dogs showed no signs of illness, while the cat was sickened, according to news reports. Nadia, the Bronx Zoo tiger, had a dry cough, as did most of the other tigers and lions at the zoo, whose cases were confirmed by fecal samples. All are “behaving normally, eating well, and their coughing is greatly reduced,” the zoo said Wednesday.
In all of the cases, it is important to remember that the animals were either infected by humans or were assumed to have been, scientists say.
The CDC, the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and other public health bodies and experts agree on this: There’s no evidence that animals transmit the virus to humans or have played a role in its spread.
It might seem logical that if an animal can be infected with the coronavirus, it can pass it along. But scientists emphasize that there is a difference between infected and infectious.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and can be fatal.
Scientists studying the virus have been looking closely at links between human and animals. While a consensus is still evolving, the leading theory is that infection among humans began at an animal market in China, probably from an animal that got the virus from a bat.
Scientists are working to understand the potential for transmission to animals in homes, farms and elsewhere. So far, it doesn’t appear that livestock or poultry are susceptible, Rooney said.