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It's Official: Cats and Dogs Can Get Coronavirus

COVID-19 has been documented in both cats and dogs. Although the issue is worth noting, it appears that it may not be serious to these pets and their ability to transmit it to humans doubtful.
(This article was modified from an earlier version which focused on felines, before a documented case of a canine infection.)

It’s no longer a question of whether some pets can catch COVID-19.

Although the issue had been somewhat in doubt, professionals have now reported multiple cases of feline and canine coronavirus infection. But if you’re confused by frequently changing alerts on this, you’re not alone. It helps to remember that the name of the virus includes “novel,” meaning it’s new. Our science is still learning about the disease and its characteristics.

The first known case of a dog contracting coronavirus was reported April 27 in North Carolina.

The dog, a pug, was part of a Duke University study in which an entire family was tested for the virus. He his symptoms were reported as mild. It’s worth noting that two cats in the home also tested positive.

Overseas, a dog in Hong Kong tested positive and died in March, although the 17-year-old canine’s cause of death was uncertain.

The week of April 20, two cats in separate areas of New York state tested positive for coronavirus. Although they were the first to officially test positive in the U.S., several lions and tigers tested positive in zoos earlier, but these latest examples are the first known that involve pets.

Worth Noting

How the cats became infected is not certain. It appears one of the infections may have occurred when the owner contracted COVID-19 and transmitted it to the cat. It’s possible other cat, or even both, may have contracted the disease outside the home.

As with the more recent dog, both felines so far are experiencing only mild respiratory symptoms and are expected to recover. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture made the announcements April 22.

Of course, the biggest question is whether cats, dogs or other pets could transmit the virus to humans. Scientists currently consider that unlikely, although given the frequent changes associated with the disease it is seems prudent to consider the issue as open. For that reason, letting pets roam, always a questionable, seems like an especially bad idea now.

The CDC has recommended that owners should not let their pets interact with other people or animals outside of their household. Similarly, if someone in the house is infected, they should stay in a separate portion of the house from other residents. Household pets should not be allowed to travel between the person with coronavirus and the rest of the family.

It’s worth noting, however, that multiple agencies stressed that there is no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the virus and emphasized that there is no reason to do anything to pets that would penalize or hurt them because of virus fears. Cats should be kept indoors and dogs walked on a leash and kept a minimum of six feet from other pets and people. Thorough hand washing for a minimum of 20 seconds should be practiced after contact with a pet.