June 8 (UPI) -- Cats can catch the new coronavirus from humans, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, it remains unknown whether pets can pass the virus on to humans or other household animals, the agency said.
The findings are based on an analysis of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in cats in New York state.
Both cats lived in homes in which one person had a confirmed COVID-19 infection, the authors said. Both developed symptoms several days after there owners had done so, and both have fully recovered, according to the report.
"Close interactions between humans and pets create opportunities for zoonotic disease transmission," the authors of the report wrote, adding, "Humans with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 should limit contact with pets."
Some 76 million domesticated cats live in the United States, according to the American Pet Product Association.
The two feline cases are the first known instances of the virus in companion animals in the United States. A pet dog was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Hong Kong in February, according to reports.
One of the cats in New York lived in a home in Nassau County, which borders on the New York City borough of Queens. To date, the county has reported 41,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The other was from update Orange County, which Johns Hopkins reports has less than 11,000 confirmed cases. The county is about 50 miles from New York City, which so far has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with more than 207,000 confirmed cases.
Both cats were tested for COVID-19 by veterinarians after showing symptoms of a respiratory infection, including coughing, sneezing, clear nasal and ocular discharge, loss of appetite and lethargy, the CDC said.
The infected cats were primarily indoor cats, although the pet from Nassau County did venture out occasionally, the report said.
The Orange County cat did not develop COVID-19 symptoms and remains healthy, the CDC said.
"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," the CDC authors wrote.
"Companion animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should be monitored and separated from persons and other animals until they recover."