Pet cats in Texas first in state to test positive for coronavirus

Both felines were asymptomatic

Texas scientists have reported finding two pet cats with the coronavirus — the first in the state.

The cats were swabbed as part of a study being conducted at Texas A&M University to understand how pets living in “high-risk” households may be impacted by COVID-19.

The cats were in separate homes in Brazos County — and asymptomatic. One cat began sneezing after a visit from researchers.

A nasal swab sample is collected from Crocket, a study participant from Bryan, Texas.

A nasal swab sample is collected from Crocket, a study participant from Bryan, Texas. (Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences)

Dr. Sarah Hamer, an epidemiologist, told KBTX-TV Friday that her team was testing dogs and cats who live in homes where the coronavirus has infected at least one person. The study began in June.

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She said that now that they know there’s a chance for pets to become infected in COVID-positive homes, pet owners should be cautious if they become infected, but that they should not worry, according to the station.

“Under no circumstances would an owner of an infected pet be asked to surrender their pets, and there’s no need to worry about a diagnosis,” she said. “But when we do find out that a pet is positive, we would work with those owners to take preventive measures to make sure that that pet is staying home, it’s not interacting with other pets and is isolating in the same way that positive people would isolate.”

Samples are collected from Daisy by field research team members (from left) research associate Lisa Auckland, postdoctoral associate Italo Zecca (MPH, PhD), and doctoral student Edward Davila.

Samples are collected from Daisy by field research team members (from left) research associate Lisa Auckland, postdoctoral associate Italo Zecca (MPH, PhD), and doctoral student Edward Davila. (Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences)

In a news release, Hamer said the study was not designed to test whether pets become infected from owners, or vice versa.

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In July, a pet dog in Fort Worth, Texas, tested positive for the virus. Its owners had the virus.

“Based on current knowledge, there is no evidence that pets play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2 to people,” State Veterinarian Dr. Andy Schwartz said at the time.

In April, federal officials confirmed two cats who lived in different parts of New York had tested positive for the virus. They had mild respiratory illnesses.

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They were the first companion animals in the U.S. to test positive.