Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, federal officials said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
These are the first cases of COVID-19 in companion animals in the United States.
The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The finding adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide. US authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication the animals are transmitting it to human beings.
Earlier this month, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for coronavirus, in what was believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the US or a tiger anywhere.
The tiger is believed to have been infected by a zoo employee.
There have been reports of a small number of pets outside the United States 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.
Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats could not pass the virus to human beings but could test positive if exposed by their owners
The two cats live in different parts of the state; the USDA and CDC wouldn’t say where specifically.
The first cat fell ill about a week after a person in its household had a short respiratory illness, though it wasn’t confirmed to be COVID-19, said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections. The animal goes outdoors at times and might have come into contact with an infected person in the area, she said.
The second cat’s owner tested positive for COVID-19 before the cat became sick, officials said. Another cat in the same home hasn’t shown any signs of illness.
The agencies have recommended that any pet owners with COVID-19 avoid contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.