A statement of two pet cats in New York tested positive, by coronavirus, was confirmed by United States Federal officers. This is probably the first confirmed case in companion animals.
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 neighbourhoods, the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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. US authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.
“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets” or to rush to test them en masse,” said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections.
“There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people,” Behravesh said.
Still, the CDC is recommending that people prevent their pets from interacting with people or animals outside their homes — by keeping cats indoors and dogs out of dog parks, for instance.
“Coronavirus testing for pets isn’t recommended unless an animal has been exposed to a person with Covid-19 and the animal has symptoms of the disease – and tests have ruled out more common possible causes,” said Dr. Jane Rooney of the USDA. Veterinarians who think testing is warranted are supposed to contact state officials to decide.
The American Veterinary Medical Association says pets can stay in homes where a person has Covid-19, so long as the animal can be cared for.
“In this emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.
For most people, the new 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.
The two cats live in different parts of the state; the USDA and CDC wouldn’t say where specifically.
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.