Two domestic cats in New York have apparently become the first pets in the country to test positive for the novel coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Wednesday.
The USDA adds that very few animals around the world have become infected. Most of those that have tested positive were in close contact with a person who has COVID-19.
According to the agency’s statement, both cats had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery. They live in separate parts of the state.
Officials explain that a vet tested the first cat after it began showing mild respiratory signs. No individuals in that household were confirmed to have the virus.
However, the report adds that the virus may have been transmitted to the cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or by contact with an infected person outside its home.
As for the second cat, the USDA says samples were also taken after it showed signs of respiratory illness. The owner of that cat had already tested positive for COVID-19 beforehand. Another cat in the same household has shown no signs of illness to date.
At this time, state animal health and public health officials do not recommend routine testing of animals.
“Public health officials are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States,” wrote the USDA. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals, including pets, could be affected.”
For now, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (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 6 feet from other people and animals.
-Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
In addition, USDA asks individuals who are or may be infected to restrict their contact with pets and other animals:
-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.