In the first case of pet animals contracting coronavirus, two cats in New York have been tested positive for the fatal virus after exhibiting mild respiratory symptoms. Earlier, eights lions and tigers at the New York zoo were diagnosed with the virus, after they reportedly came in contact with a COVID1-19 positive zoo worker.

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Representational picture Pixabay

The pandemic, which originated from Wuhan in China last December, has infected over 2.6 million people globally and killed more than 184,000.

First pets to contract the virus

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed the two pet felines having coronavirus. The authorities believed that the cats would be able to make a complete recovery. "These are the first pets in the United States to test positive," the USDA said in a statement.

According to the authorities, the cats, who live in different areas of New York, might have contracted coronavirus from either their owners or those living in their neighbourhood.

In a press release issued, USDA said: "A veterinarian tested the first cat after it showed mild respiratory signs. No individuals in the household were confirmed to be ill with COVID-19. The virus may have been transmitted to this cat by mildly ill or asymptomatic household members or through contact with an infected person outside its home," it added.

Quoting USDA, CBS News reported that in case of the second cat, its owner was tested positive for COVID-19, much before the feline showcased any symptoms. However, another cat in the same household has shown no signs of illness.

Maintain social distance with pets too

Ever since the outbreak of the virus, there have been rumours about pets capable of spreading the coronavirus to humans. However, USDA confirmed that there was no evidence that pets play a role in spreading the fatal virus. "There is no justification in taking measures against companion animals that may compromise their welfare," said the agency in a joint press statement released with CDC.

It's not surprising they could have been infected, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. "There is no evidence whatsoever that we've seen, from an epidemiological standpoint, that pets can be transmitters within the household," he told CNN.

Advising social distancing from their pets, the CDC has advised the owners to 'limit interactions between their pets and people or animals outside the household'.

"Cats should be kept indoors when possible, and dogs should be walked on a leash, maintaining at least six feet from other people and animals. The dogs should also avoid public places where a large number of people and animals gather, such as dog parks," outlined the CDC.

"If someone is ill with Covid-19 -- whether suspected or confirmed – have another member of the household care for pets. If that's not possible, people should wear cloth face coverings around animals, making sure to wash their hands before and after any interactions. And when people are sick, officials said they should refrain from petting or snuggling their pets -- and avoid being kissed or licked," suggested the agency.