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


An estimated 76 million pet cats live in the United States, and approximately 70% of U.S. households own at least one pet.[9] Close interactions between humans and pets create opportunities for zoonotic disease transmission. In both cases presented in this report, the cats with positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 had close epidemiologic links to owners with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. In addition, human symptom onset preceded that in cat A by 9 days and in cat B by 8 days. No identified onward human or animal infections were attributed to these animals. This evidence supports findings to date that animals do not play a substantial role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, although human-to-animal transmission can occur in some situations. Companion animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should be monitored and separated from persons and other animals until they recover.

Both animals in this report were initially tested by laboratory A as part of a passive COVID-19 pet surveillance program that operated independently from state and federal health agencies. This method of surveillance was unable to routinely obtain epidemiologic information regarding SARS-CoV-2 exposures before testing. CDC and USDA have identified four situational testing categories§;[10] one of the four categories recommends testing symptomatic animals with close contact to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Epidemiologic investigation conducted after positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were reported found that both cat A and cat B fit this situational category.

Currently, CDC and USDA recommend that epidemiologic information be collected before companion animal SARS-CoV-2 testing, and that the decision to test animals be coordinated with state public health veterinarians and state animal health officials using a One Health approach, to ensure that animal and public health responses occur in a timely and effective manner. Laboratory A's passive surveillance program operated for a limited period to better understand the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on animals at risk for infection and did not divert resources necessary to conduct human SARS-CoV-2 testing, consistent with CDC and USDA guidance.

Establishment of the U.S. One Health Federal Interagency COVID-19 Coordination Group (OHFICCG) in February 2020, and routine communication between state and federal One Health partners have been instrumental in ensuring a coordinated government response to the One Health aspects of COVID-19. This One Health coordination platform allows for collaboration and rapid information-sharing across sectors while also facilitating alignment of research, priorities, and messaging regarding the human, animal, and environmental aspects of COVID-19. Laboratory A, state partners, and members of OHFICCG coordinated information sharing during this investigation. Information from this investigation informed OHFICCG guidance development for managing SARS-CoV-2–infected animals, including guidance for when animals with positive test results should resume normal activities. This investigation provides further support for the utility of a One Health approach to addressing zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 to safeguard the health, welfare, and safety of humans, animals, and their shared environment.