Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals and do not infect humans.
Risk of animals spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to people
Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. This is what happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, we do not know the exact source of this virus yet. Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first reported infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person.
The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. Recent studies show that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to animals
We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations, especially after close contact with a person sick with COVID-19.
For information on how to protect pets from possible infection with SARS-CoV-2, see If You Have Pets.
Animals that can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19
We know that cats, dogs, and a few other types of animals can be infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but we don’t yet know all of the animals that can get infected. There have been reports of animals being infected with the virus worldwide.
- A small number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus in several countries, including the United States. Most of these pets became sick after contact with people with COVID-19.
- Several lions and tigersexternal icon at a New York zoo tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after showing signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with SARS-CoV-2. All of these large cats have fully recovered.
- SARS-CoV-2 was recently discovered in mink (which are closely related to ferrets) on multiple farms in the Netherlands. The mink showed respiratory and gastrointestinal signs; the farms also experienced an increase in mink deaths. Because some workers on these farms had symptoms of COVID-19, it is likely that infected farm workers were the source of the mink infections. Some farm cats on several mink farms also developed antibodies to this virus, suggesting they had been exposed to the virus at some point. Officials in the Netherlands are investigating the connections between the health of people and animals as well as the environment on these mink farms.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a listexternal icon of all animals with confirmed infections with SARS-CoV-2 in the United States.
Research on animals and COVID-19
Research on SARS-Cov-2 in animals is limited, but studies are underway to learn more about how this virus can affect different animals.
- Recent research shows that ferrets, cats, and golden Syrian hamsters can be experimentally infected with the virus and can spread the infection to other animals of the same species in laboratory settings.
- A number of studies have investigated non-human primates as models for human infection. Rhesus macaques, cynomolgus macaques, African green monkeys, and common marmosets can become infected SARS-CoV-2 and become sick in a laboratory setting.
- Mice, pigs, chickens, and ducks do not seem to become infected or spread the infection based on results from these studies.
- Data from one study suggest dogs are not as easily infected with the virus as cats and ferrets.
These findings were based on a small number of animals, and do not show whether animals can spread infection to people. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.