April 27: On April 14, we wrote about emerging reports of cats contracting COVID-19 and communicated the latest guidance from the CDC and veterinary experts. As more cases have emerged in the last several days, the guidelines for pets have been revised.
Last Wednesday (4/22), the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that two pet cats in New York State had tested positive for the virus. These cats, which live in different parts of the state, are the first house pets to test positive for the virus in the U.S. One of the cats lives with an individual who had been diagnosed with COVID-19; and the other cat lives in a household where no humans been diagnosed with the illness, meaning that the cat may have been infected by a mildly ill or asymptomatic person in the home or through contact with someone outside the home. Both cats were tested at veterinary laboratories, using tests specifically designed for animals. In both cases, the cats experienced only mild respiratory symptoms and are expected to make a full recovery.
While most of the animals to receive positive diagnoses of COVID-19 worldwide have been cats, two dogs in Hong Kong tested positive. Neither dogs showed symptoms of illness, though one of the dogs died after being released from quarantine, a death that was attributed to old age — the dog was 17 — rather than exposure to the virus. In a recent study, cats and ferrets were found to have a high susceptibility to the virus, while dogs were found to have a lower susceptibility.
The CDC’s updated recommendations for pets include 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, staying at least 6 feet away 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, or 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.
Although we are still learning more about how COVID-19 is spread, it is important to remember that while there have been cases of human-to-animal transmission, there is no evidence that pets can give the virus to their owners.
And while your indoor-outdoor cats may object to these new restrictions on their freedom to roam, avoiding the novel coronavirus isn’t the only possible health benefit. According to the American Veterinary Association, stay-at-home cats also avoid “injury, suffering, and death from vehicles; attacks from other animals; euthanasia; human cruelty; poisons; traps; and weather extremes.” Not to mention that the songbird population would probably appreciate a period of social distancing from their feline friends.