2 cats in NY are first pets to test positive for COVID-19 in US

CDC recommends pet owners take precautions amid coronavirus pandemic

Photos: Petfinder
Photos: Petfinder (Photos: Petfinder)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday that two pets have tested positive for COVID-19 -- the first in the country.

The two pet cats that contracted the virus are from different parts of New York state.

The first cat was tested by a veterinarian after showing mild respiratory signs, officials said. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the pet’s household.

Officials say the cat may have contracted the virus from mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or from an ill person outside the home.

The second cat was tested after showing signs of a mild respiratory illness. The cat’s owner previously tested positive for COVID-19 before the cat showed any signs, officials said. There is another cat in the household that hasn’t shown any symptoms.

A list of animals that have tested positive for COVID-19, and have been confirmed by the NVSL, can be found here. So far, there are only four animals on the list.

At this time, officials are not recommending routine COVID-19 testing for animals. Officials say there is currently no evidence that pets are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.

The CDC recommends the following precautions for pet owners:

  • 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.

For pet owners sick with COVID-19, the CDC recommends the following steps:

  • 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 CDC has more information available for pet owners concerned about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

How COVID-19 Spreads

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • Spread is possible before people show symptoms. People who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus and can still pass it on to other people.

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

How easily the virus spreads

How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary. Some viruses are highly contagious (spread easily), like measles, while other viruses do not spread as easily. Another factor is whether the spread is sustained, spreading continually without stopping.

Prevention and Treatment

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Click here for more guidelines from the CDC.

People who think they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider immediately.

Question about coronavirus? Ask Dr. McGeorge here.

Read more about coronavirus here.

About the Author: