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VERIFY: What does it mean now that 2 cats have tested positive for COVID-19?

Two pet cats in New York state recently tested positive for the new coronavirus. So what does this mean for you and your pets?

Two pet cats in New York state tested positive for the new coronavirus this week, marking the first time a pet in the United States has tested positive for COVID-19.

Following the news, many viewers reached out to VERIFY with their questions. So we tackled some of your most common questions about your furry family members and coronavirus. 

THE QUESTIONS

Is it possible my pets could further spread the disease? Are my pets in danger? Is testing pets using possible tests for people?

THE ANSWER

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently advises that there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus. Still, they urge you to exercise caution when taking care of your pet amidst this pandemic.

Both of the cats in question had mild cases and are recovering, according to officials. There are currently no cases of an animal having severe COVID-19 symptoms. 

The USDA said COVID-19 testing for pets does not hinder testing for humans in any way.

WHAT WE FOUND

So first, let’s go over exactly what happened to these cats.

The USDA says both cats were from New York state, although they were from different parts of the state and their illnesses were unrelated. Both of them have mild respiratory symptoms but both are expected to make a full recovery.

The owner of one cat had COVID-19 prior to the cat showing signs of illness while no one in the other cat’s household has had the illness yet. The USDA said it’s possible the cat got the illness from an asymptomatic carrier in the house or contact with an infected person outside the home.

These are the first confirmed instances in the U.S. of pets contracting COVID-19. In response, CDC updated their guidance involving animals and coronavirus.

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Originally, the CDC stated that pets were unlikely to be at risk of getting COVID-19 because they had no evidence of pets getting the disease. The CDC now advises that you treat pets like you would humans in your household -- don’t let them come in close contact with strangers and keep people diagnosed with COVID-19 away from pets.

The CDC also added that the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is low “based on the limited information available to date.” They say there is no evidence pets play a significant role in spreading the virus.

So far, four animals in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the USDA’s list. All four have been felines in the state of New York. The first confirmed case involved a tiger in a New York zoo and the second was a lion also in a New York zoo. 

The USDA does not currently recommend routine animal testing for COVID-19. Still, they maintain it does not impair human testing at all.

In the agency's animal testing FAQ, the USDA explained tests for animals use reagents not required for human COVID-19 tests and thus should not reduce the availability of tests for people. The tests are performed by veterinarians instead of doctors.

So, what are some big takeaways from all of this? Yes, your pet can get COVID-19 so you should avoid cuddling it if you’re sick and you shouldn’t let strangers pet it for the time being. So far, all pets with coronavirus have had mild symptoms and testing these animals has not impacted human testing at all.

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