Two cats have become the first pets in the United States to test positive for coronavirus, federal agencies announced Wednesday in a release recommending a number of precautions pet owners should take.

Both animals, which are from separate areas of New York state, had minor respiratory symptoms and are expected to make a full recovery, a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

One cat was tested after its owner had already tested positive for COVID-19. The other came from a home where no one has a confirmed case of the virus, and officials speculate the animal may have contracted the virus from a family member who didn’t realize they had the virus or through contact with an infected person outside the home.

“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, Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, told the Associated Press. “There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”

Even so, officials continue to recommend pet owners take several precautions. Most basic: “Treat pets as you would other human family members,” the CDC recommends.

That means pets shouldn’t interact with people or animals outside their home, cats should remain indoors if possible, owners should avoid busy dog parks and dogs should be walked on a leash, maintaining a 6-foot distance from other people and animals.

Those recommendations are in addition to more extreme steps pet owners should take if they test positive for the virus or believe they are sick. In that case, owners should cut off contact with their pets in addition to isolating themselves from other people.

Although animal testing does not affect the availability of coronavirus tests for humans, widespread testing in animals isn’t recommended by the USDA, The Associated Press reports. Veterinarians may recommend testing for pets who have been exposed to someone with the virus.

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The American Veterinary Medical Foundation says several pets have tested positive for coronavirus in Hong Kong: two dogs and a cat. That’s in addition to coronavirus cases in some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo.

A 4-year-old Malayan tiger was tested after starting to show signs of illness on March 27, 11 days after the zoo closed to the public because of the virus. It became the first confirmed coronavirus case in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere. 

Since then, three other tigers and three lions showed symptoms. All have been recovering. 

Zoo officials said they believe the animals were exposed by one or more keepers who had the virus but weren’t showing symptoms at the time.

Scientists are working to understand the potential for transmission to animals in homes, farms and elsewhere. So far, it doesn’t appear that livestock or poultry are susceptible,.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2 cats test positive for coronavirus in New York, a first for US pets



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