The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year, causes the potentially deadly disease COVID-19.
The cats “are the first pets in the United States to test positive for SARS-CoV-2,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Agriculture said in a joint statement, using the technical name for the new virus.
The cats live in two separate areas of New York. Both experienced mild respiratory illness and are expected to fully recover.
A veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild symptoms. No one who lives with the cat has tested positive for COVID-19.
“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,” federal officials said.
The owner of the second cat tested positive for COVID-19 before the animal started showing symptoms, prompting officials to gather samples.
A private veterinary laboratory tested the samples and reported the findings to state and federal officials. A second round of testing was done at the Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
A study published earlier this month found cats can become infected with the CCP virus. Cats are highly susceptible to the virus and can infect each other via respiratory droplets, researchers said.
For now, people shouldn’t take specific action concerning pets during the pandemic, according to federal officials.
“Public health officials are still learning about SARS-CoV-2, but there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus in the United States. Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare,” the U.S. agencies said in a statement, adding that further studies are required to understand how different animals could be affected by the CCP virus.
Until more is known, the CDC is recommending pet owners don’t let pets interact with people or animals outside their place of residence, keep cats indoors when possible, walk dogs on a leash—maintaining at least six feet from other people and animals—and avoid public places with large groups of people, such as dog parks.
People with confirmed cases of the new illness are advised to restrict their contact with their pets and other animals. When possible, have someone else take care of the pets.
Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.