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State Veterinarian Confirms Pa.'s First COVID-19 Positive Cat

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania medical officials say a 16-year-old cat from Cumberland County is the state's first COVID-19 positive feline.

According to state veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brightbill, the cat lived with multiple people who were also diagnosed with coronavirus.

The case was diagnosed in October and the cat was eventually euthanized because of respiratory distress.

The case remains under investigation, and the primary cause of death is unconfirmed.

Dr. Brightbill says this cat is just "one of a handful of COVID-19 positive pets from the U.S. that died or were euthanized while infected." All the infected pets, officials said, had prolonged exposure to coronavirus from a person diagnosed with it and none of them appear to have died from the virus.

Dr. Brightbill says, instead, other serious underlying illnesses contributed to their cause of death.

Many of the same recommendations for protecting people from the virus apply to animals.

Households with COVID-19 positive individuals should adhere to these guidelines from the state:

  • Avoid contact with pets and other animals, as you would other people.
  • Arrange for another household member to care for your pet(s) while you or family members are in isolation.
  • Avoid contact such as petting, holding, snuggling, facial contact, and sleeping in the same bed.
  • Wear a mask and wash your hands before feeding or tending to your pet if you are unable to find alternative care for them.

Dr. Brightbill said in a news release, "As Pennsylvanians have spent more time at home throughout the pandemic, our companion animals have undoubtedly been the recipients of extra love and attention. If you or a loved one becomes diagnosed with COVID-19, take steps to keep your pet healthy, just as you would your family."

A local vet says we need to treat our pets like we do people, especially cats.

"We've known for a couple of months that cats are more susceptible than some other species to being able to contract COVID-19," said vet and co-owner of Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic Dr. Stephanie Berger.

"Look for very similar symptoms in cats like fever, cough, diarrhea, respiratory distress, lethargy," said Shannon Powers with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

What about dogs?

"Dogs seem to be very, very uncommon for any dog to show signs of illness," said Dr. Berger. "There have been a few dogs where they've been able to isolate the virus from their body, and again those dogs have been in a home with a known positive human."

If your cat or dog does get coronavirus, local vets say there's no evidence that they can transmit the virus to humans or other animals.

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