2 cats in NY become first US pets to test positive for virus

The cats had a mild respiratory illness and are expected to recover

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Cats may be susceptible to catching the coronavirus.

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive, marking the first confirmed cases in companion animals in the United States, federal officials said Wednesday.

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The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The finding, which comes after positive tests in some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo, adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide.

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U.S. authorities, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.

Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a CDC official who works on human-animal health connections, stressed that there's no need for pet owners to panic, or rush to test their animals.

Still, the CDC is recommending that people prevent their pets from interacting with people or animals outside their homes -- by keeping cats indoors and dogs out of dog parks, for instance.

Coronavirus testing for pets isn’t recommended unless an animal has been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and the animal has symptoms of the disease.

The first cat fell ill about a week after a person in its household had a short respiratory illness.

The second cat’s owner tested positive for COVID-19 before the cat became sick, officials said.

The cats' symptoms included coughing and slightly runny noses, officials said.

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The agencies have recommended that any pet owners with COVID-19 avoid petting, snuggling or other contact with their animals as much as possible, including wearing a face covering while caring for them.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.