Two cats in New York have become the first pets to test positive for Covid-19 in the US, shortly after it was announced a tiger in the Bronx zoo had contracted the illness from one of the keepers.
The diagnoses were announced by federal officials on Wednesday, who reported the cases of two cats with mild respiratory illnesses. The animals are expected to make a full recovery, having caught the virus from either their respective owners or possibly people in the community, according to the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The first of the two cats became sick with mild symptoms of coughing and a runny nose about one week after its owner had a mild illness. Whether the owner had been sick with Covid-19 or something else wasn’t able to be confirmed, but it’s also possible the cat picked it up off someone on the street. The owner of the second cat tested positive for Covid-19 before the animal became ill, but a second cat in the home hasn’t shown any symptoms.
The CDC has urged people not to panic at the news or rush to get their animals tested. “We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets,” said Dr Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, to the Associated Press. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”
The sentiment has been echoed by White House’s top medical adviser on the coronavirus outbreak, Dr Anthony Fauci, who said during Wednesday’s press briefing that as of yet there has been nothing to indicate that the virus can pass from a pet to its owner. Despite this, the CDC still recommends, where possible, that people avoid interacting with pets on the street and try to keep their own pets from interacting with people or other animals outside of the home.
This isn’t the first time that members of the feline family have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, after it was found several lions and tigers had contracted the disease at the Bronx Zoo. The number of animals confirmed to have the disease remains low worldwide, and while insufficient testing likely means the actual number might be a bit higher, the US authorities stress that while it seems pets can catch the virus from humans, there’s been nothing to suggest that humans can catch the virus from pet cats or dogs. The CDC has, however, advised that it’s best to avoid cuddling with your pet and to wear a face mask when caring for animals if you know you are sick with Covid-19.