Two New York Cats Become First Pets in U.S. Infected With Coronavirus

On Wednesday, two cats in New York became the first pets in the U.S. to become infected with COVID-19, according to a statement from the Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

According to the statement, the first cat was tested by its veterinarian after showing signs of a mild respiratory illness. While the cat tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, no individuals in the household where the cat lived, were confirmed to have the virus.

"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," the statement read.

The second cat that tested positive lived in a different area from the other cat, but also was showing signs of respiratory illness, which led to samples being taken by a veterinarian. According to the statement, the cat's owner tested positive for COVID-19, prior to the cat showing signs of the illness. "Another cat in the household has shown no signs of illness," the statement adds.

"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 statement reads.

In its statement, the USDA notes that "there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus," in the U.S., but they do outline a number of CDC guidelines for pet owners during the coronavirus pandemic. These guidelines include keeping pets indoors and away from people and other animals outside, staying at least six feet away from other pets when outdoors and avoiding dog parks or other public places "where a large number of people and dogs gather."

These two cats became the first pets to become infected with COVID-19 in the U.S., but they are not the first animals to contract the virus.

Coronavirus in U.S.
Two cats in New York, not pictured, became infected with the coronavirus. Peter Parks/Getty

At the Bronx Zoo, in New York, a tiger named Nadia, tested positive for COVID-19, earlier in April, becoming the first known animal to test positive for the virus in the U.S.

According to a statement released by the zoo, the samples were taken from Nadia and sent to the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory, which confirmed that the tests results were positive for COVID-19. In addition to Nadia, three other tigers and three lions were also experiencing a dry cough, but are all expected to recover.

"Our cats were infected by a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms," the zoo's statement reads.

Other than experiencing a dry cough and a small decrease in appetite, the zoo noted that the cats are "otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers."

The new coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, but has continued to spread across the globe, with over 2.6 million confirmed cases, according to a tracker provided by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has become the virus's epicenter, with over 834,000 cases and at least 45,894 deaths.