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COVID-19 Update: Cats, Small and Large


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Two domestic cats have tested positive for SARS CoV-2 (which causes COVID-19) in New York City, the first companion animals to test positive in the U.S. These cats have mild respiratory signs, and are expected to easily make a full recovery. Both cats came from different households. One home with a COVID-19 individual, and the other cat in a home without a COVID-19 positive human.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture press release, “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.”

Also it’s exceedingly important to understand, just because cats (or for that matter a dog) may carry a low level of infection doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any ability whatsoever to infect members of the same species or to infect humans. SARS CoV-2 is a human disease.

Over 2.5 million people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19. Who knows how many many have been sick, but weren’t tested, likely another million or more. And maybe millions who have had the virus but were asymptotic.  And with all that – so far, you can count on one hand the number of confirmed positives in companion animals.

Dr. Jennifer Ogeer, medical affairs & commercial marketing at the diagnostic lab Antech says, “Antech’s SARS-CoV-2 surveillance program is important as it contributes to the body of scientific evidence needed to understand the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for both humans and animals. We started surveillance in early March and have two confirmed positive cases (the two New York cats) out of a current total of more than 2000 samples. So far, we have seen few confirmed reports of human-to-animal transmission in pets, and there are currently no reports of pets found to be the primary source of infection or animal-to-human transmission.”

In addition, the diagnostic lab IDEXX has conducted thousands of tests without a single positive for a dog or cat.
Meanwhile, the Wild Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo issued an update today (April 22) regarding Nadia, the Malayan Tiger, who previously tested positive for SARS CoV-2.  The zoo confirmed that the three other tigers in Tiger Mountain and the three African Lions that exhibited a cough have also tested positive for COVID-19.  This testing was done by using a fecal sample test developed by the zoo’s laboratory partners that does not require the animals be placed under anesthesia. The fecal tests confirmed our suspicion that all seven cats had the infection, and also determined that one tiger at Tiger Mountain that never developed a cough was also positive for the disease. The zoo notes the cats are recovering very well, and are expected to be just fine. None of the various other big cats at the zoo have been affected.

Update from AVMA

BACKGROUND

  • On April 22, the CDC and the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection in two pet cats in the United States.
  • These are the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.
  • The two pet cats in the United States both had signs of mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery.
  • To date, globally, the only pets incidentally exposed to COVID-19 that have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 are two pet dogs and a pet cat in Hong Kong, and two pet cats in in the United States.
  • Currently we have no information that suggests pets might be a source of infection for people with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

This finding does not alter the AVMA’s basic guidance for pet owners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until we know more, pet owners should:

  • Not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household;
  • Keep cats indoors, if possible, to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people;
  • Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (social distance) from other people and animals;
  • Avoid dog parts or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather (supports social distancing).

If pet owners are ill with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed with a test), they should

  • Restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like they would with other people;
  • Have another member of their household care for their pets while they are sick;  and avoid contact with their pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.

If people need to personally care for their pets or be around animals while they are sick, they should wear a cloth face covering and wash their hands before and after they interact with those pets.

The CDC has additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 and the AVMA also offers information and resources for veterinarians and pet owners on COVID-19.

There is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately. In this emergency, pets and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both.

The CDC has additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 and the AVMA also offers information and resources for veterinarians and pet owners on COVID-19.

At this time, routine testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended. Veterinarians should consult with public health and state animal health officials when deciding if animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2.

More information is at, AVMA.org/Coronavirus

Statement from United States Department of Agriculture

Washington, D.C. April 22, 2020 – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) today announced the first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in two pet cats. These are the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

The cats live in two separate areas of New York state. Both had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery. SARS-CoV-2 infections have been reported in very few animals worldwide, mostly in those that had close contact with a person with COVID-19.

At this time, routine testing of animals is not recommended. Should other animals be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the United States, USDA will post the findings at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/SA_One_Health/sars-cov-2-animals-us. State animal health and public health officials will take the lead in making determinations about whether animals should be tested for SARS-CoV-2.

In the NY cases announced today, a veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild respiratory signs. No individuals in the household were confirmed to be ill with COVID-19. The virus may have been transmitted to this cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home.

Samples from the second cat were taken after it showed signs of respiratory illness. The owner of the cat tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the cat showing signs. Another cat in the household has shown no signs of illness.

Both cats tested presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 at a private veterinary laboratory, which then reported the results to state and federal officials. The confirmatory testing was conducted at NVSL and included collection of additional samples. NVSL serves as an international reference laboratory and provides expertise and guidance on diagnostic techniques, as well as confirmatory testing for foreign and emerging animal diseases. Such testing is required for certain animal diseases in the U.S. in order to comply with national and international reporting procedures. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) considers SARS-CoV-2 an emerging disease, and therefore USDA must report confirmed U.S. animal infections to the OIE.

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.

Until we know more, 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.

If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would around other people.

  • 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.

While additional animals may test positive as infections continue in people, it is important to note that performing this animal testing does not reduce the availability of tests for humans. The U.S. government remains committed to increasing nationwide COVID-19 testing for Americans. In fact, the United States has conducted more than four million COVID-19 tests for humans, which is more tests than the following nations combined: France, the UK, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India, Austria, Australia, Sweden, and Canada.

For more information on animals and COVID-19, see: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html

For more information about testing in animals, see:
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/one_health/downloads/faq-public-on-companion-animal-testing.pdf

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