In Brief

2 pet cats in NY test positive for COVID-19

This little fur ball is getting ready to pounce. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Two pet cats in New York have tested positive for the new coronavirus, becoming the first domesticated animals in the U.S. reported to have the virus, according to news reports.

On Wednesday (April 22), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the two cats had developed mild respiratory illness before testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to The Washington Post. The animals live in different parts of the state, and both are expected to recover.

It's thought that the cats caught the virus from their owners or people in their neighborhood, according to WPMI, an NBC News affiliate. In one case, the cat's owner was diagnosed with COVID-19 before the cat showed symptoms. In the second case, a person in the household developed a respiratory illness for a short period before the cat became sick, although the individual was not confirmed to have COVID-19. In this latter case, the cat also went outdoors at times, so the animal may have been exposed to an infected person in the neighborhood, WPMI reported.

Last month, a cat in Belgium was found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 after its owner tested positive, Live Science previously reported. In the U.S., a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 in early April.

There is currently no evidence of the virus spreading from cats to people.

"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, WPMI reported. "There's no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people."

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.