24 Apr Two House Cats in NY Test Positive for COVID-19, but PVMA’s Immediate Past-President States it Is Not a Reason to Become Alarmed or Start Testing All Pets
With the news being released on April 22, 2020, of two house cats from NY having their tests for COVID-19 being confirmed as positive from the National Veterinary Science Laboratory the concern of cats being a source of infection for humans and other cats has once again ramped up. “There is no need to become concerned or consider having all pets tested for the virus,” states Pet Pantry Medical Director and Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association’s Immediate-Past President, Dr. Bryan Langlois.
“Most everyone in the veterinary and research community expected that eventually we would find some cats that showed mild symptoms of and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the technical scientific name of the virus as COVID-19 describes more the disease process people get).” explains Dr. Langlois. “It is believed these cats contracted the virus from humans infected with COVID-19 that were either already showing signs, as was the case in one cat, or were asymptomatic carriers. These findings and results do not change any of our current thinking or recommendations regarding pets and COVID-19. While we know that human to animal transmission of this virus is possible it is very important to stress for everyone again that there is no evidence of animals being able to transmit it to humans and there have been no documented cases of household pets being the source of infection for a human.”
Dr. Langlois also states that cat owners should not be looking to get their cats tested for SARS-CoV-2 as a precaution. “The testing is only being recommended for very specific cases after a cat may be showing possible respiratory infection signs and there is known exposure to a COVID-19 positive person,” explains Dr. Langlois. “Even in those cases testing is only done after your veterinarian consults with state and national veterinarians on the need for testing as it not always easy to get the proper swab samples from a cat, and it can risk injury and exposure of those taking the samples to scratches and bites.”
Dr. Langlois also stresses that there have been no confirmed deaths of cats from COVID-19 and all cats that have tested positive while showing signs (including the big cats at the Bronx Zoo) are recovering or have completely recovered at this point, suffering only a mild cough and some lethargy for a few days. “We do not currently see this as becoming a major health crisis in the feline population,” he states. “If you do notice any signs of a respiratory infection in your cat, the most important thing you can do is contact your local veterinarian to determine what might be causing it. It is important to remember there are many things that can cause a respiratory infection in your cat, and COVID-19 is still quite low on that list. Please talk with your veterinarian to see if your cat will need to be seen before just taking it to the veterinarian’s office.”
“There is also still no reason to consider surrendering your cats to a shelter or to try and remove any population of feral or stray cats from your property,” stresses Dr. Langlois. “There is still no evidence that cats can spread this virus to humans, and we don’t want to see situations at shelters where mass numbers of cats are surrendered out of unnecessary fear of pet owners. We continue to monitor this situation daily and if any recommendations change on anything, we will be sure to let everyone know.”
Currently, Dr. Langlois says all pet owners should be following the same guidelines and recommendations that have previously been in place which include:
- 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, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
- 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, and 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.
As always, it is recommended that anyone who has questions about COVID-19 and their pets health should direct those questions to their local veterinarian.