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

Public Health Response

On April 14, following notification of presumptive positive SARS-CoV-2 test results for cats A and B, state and federal partners conducted a joint epidemiologic investigation. Household members and veterinarians who had treated the infected cats were questioned regarding the cats' living arrangements, health condition, potential sources of infection, and risks posed by these animals to other animals inside and outside the home, and to humans.

Cat A lived in an apartment with five persons, including three who had shown signs of mild respiratory illness including fever, cough, and sweating; none of the five were tested for SARS-CoV-2 infection. The first person's illness began around March 15, 9 days before cat A became ill, and lasted <48 hours. Residents of the household's apartment complex also experienced multiple cases of human COVID-19 around the same time. A second cat in the household, a 3-year-old female domestic shorthair, remained healthy and was not tested for SARS-CoV-2. Both cats were typically kept indoors but did occasionally venture outside.

Cat B lived in a single-family home with one person, who developed fever, productive cough, chills, muscle aches, abdominal pain, headache, diarrhea, sore throat, and fatigue on March 24, 8 days before cat B became ill. Specimens collected from this person on March 26 for viral testing were positive for SARS-CoV-2. By March 27, the illness had resolved. A second cat in the household, a 7-year-old Devon Rex, remained healthy and was not tested for SARS-CoV-2. Both cats were kept exclusively indoors.

On April 17, state and local One Health partners collected additional specimens from cats A and B for confirmatory diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 at NVSL (Table). Real-time RT-PCR, using a modified CDC N-target assay and sequencing,[8] determined that results for both cat A and B were positive at the first specimen collections (April 1 and 6, respectively), and the nasal swab from cat A was weakly positive from the subsequent collection (April 17). Both cats had SARS-CoV-2–specific virus neutralizing antibodies, but virus isolation in cell culture from subsequent specimen collection was unsuccessful for both cats, likely due to virus clearance. Cat A and B recovered from illness 11 days and 6 days before initiation of the epidemiologic investigation; therefore, no additional monitoring or infection prevention measures were recommended.