The CDC announced yesterday that 2 different house cats in New York State tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Both cats were showing mild respiratory signs but are expected to make a full recovery.
One cat came from a household where a person had tested positive/was showing signs prior to the cat developing signs, the other from a household where nobody was showing signs (it is thought that the cat acquired the virus from a subclinical family member, or from someone outside the home).
Earlier this week veterinarians were notified that some reference laboratories were offering SARS-CoV-2 testing for household pets, but before rushing to the veterinarian’s office to get tested several conditions must be met:
- Pet is living in a household with a human who has COVID-19 or has tested positive for the virus (given the news from cat in NY, it will be interesting to see if this continues to be recommended)
- Pet has already tested negative for more common respiratory infections
- Pet (especially cats and ferrets) is showing clinical signs consistent with COVID-19
*This test will not affect availability or processing of human SARS-CoV-2 tests.
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. 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.
The CDC still recommends maintaining social-distancing practices (walk dogs on a leash, avoid public gatherings, and keep cats indoors). If you are sick, try to arrange for other family members to care for your pet, avoid close contact (snuggling, kissing/licking, sharing food), and (if you have no other options) wear a mask/wash before and after handling pets.
For more information on animals and COVID-19, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html