First Reported Cases of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Companion Animals

New York, March-April 2020

Alexandra Newman DVM; David Smith, DVM; Ria R. Ghai, PhD; Ryan M. Wallace, DVM; Mia Kim Torchetti, DVM, PhD; Christina Loiacono, DVM, PhD; Laura S. Murrell, MA; Ann Carpenter, DVM; Scott Moroff, VMD; Jane A. Rooney DVM; Casey Barton Behravesh, DVM, DrPH


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69(23):710-713. 

In This Article

SARS-CoV-2 Clinical Presentation in Domestic Cats

On March 24, in Nassau County, New York, a 4-year-old male domestic shorthair (cat A), developed respiratory illness characterized by sneezing, clear ocular discharge, and mild lethargy (Figure). On April 1, the cat was taken to a veterinary clinic; on physical examination the cat was found to be overweight, with a normal body temperature (101.4°F [38.6°C]). Nasal, oropharyngeal, and ocular swabs were collected by veterinary staff members and submitted to a private diagnostic laboratory (laboratory A) for a routine feline respiratory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) panel designed to detect Mycoplasma felis, Bordetella bronchiseptica, feline calicivirus, Chlamydophila felis, feline herpesvirus, and influenza A H1N1pdm. A broad-spectrum cephalosporin class antibiotic (cefovecin; 52 mg) was administered subcutaneously, and the cat was returned home, where it fully recovered by April 3. Results of the routine feline respiratory panel were negative for all pathogens and the specimen was tested using a SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) diagnostic assay as part of laboratory A's passive COVID-19 pet surveillance program.


Timeline of events related to SARS-CoV-2 infections in two domestic cats (cats A and B) kept as pets in two different households — New York, March 15–April 22, 2020
Abbreviations: COVID-19 = coronavirus disease 2019; USDA NVSL = United States Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

On April 1, in Orange County, New York, a 5-year-old female Devon Rex (cat B), developed respiratory illness including sneezing, coughing, watery nasal and ocular discharge, loss of appetite, and lethargy. On April 6, the owner, an employee at a Connecticut veterinary clinic, collected conjunctival, nasal, deep oral, and fecal specimens from cat B in the home using sterile culturettes. These specimens also were sent to laboratory A and tested using the feline respiratory PCR panel. Cat B fully recovered by April 8 without treatment. At laboratory A, the feline respiratory PCR panel had a positive result for Mycoplasma felis and negative results for other common feline respiratory pathogens. The specimens from cat B also were tested by laboratory A for SARS-CoV-2.

On April 14, laboratory A reported a positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR result for cat A to the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL), veterinary clinic, and New York state veterinarian, who immediately notified the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH). The same day, laboratory A notified NVSL and Connecticut state animal health officials of the positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR result for cat B. After determining that cat B resided in New York, the New York state veterinarian was informed, and the NYSDH was immediately notified. RNA from the positive respiratory specimens from both cat A and cat B were forwarded from laboratory A to NVSL for confirmatory testing.