People.com Lifestyle Pets Researchers Say Human COVID Infections Can Be Passed on to Pets — Especially Cats Researchers and experts recommend that COVID-19 patients limit exposure to their pets in the same way they would other members of the household, after a study showed that about two-thirds of pets in homes with COVID exposure had antibodies By Nicholas Rice Nicholas Rice Instagram Twitter Associate Editor, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 20, 2021 04:05 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Getty Cats and dogs kept as pets are more likely to contract COVID-19 as compared to their stray counterparts, according to new research. In a recent study published earlier this month, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, compared COVID-19 exposure between household pets to shelter animals and stray cats. For the study, the group collected and tested 48 cats and 54 dogs from 77 different homes where there had been a positive COVID-19 case in the nine months prior. Researchers then looked at those results and compared them to those of 75 dogs and cats living in an animal shelter and 75 stray cats that had been seen at a veterinary clinic. How to Get Promotions, Prizes and Freebies with your COVID-19 Vaccine According to the data collected, 67 percent of pet cats and more than 43 percent of pet dogs tested positive for antibodies — a sign of past COVID-19 infection — compared to 9 percent of canines and felines from the animal shelter. When looking at the number of cats infected, the findings then lowered to 3 percent for the stray cats. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. In general, most cases seen within the dogs looked at were mild, with the most common symptom being the loss of appetite, the study found. More than a quarter of the cats, meanwhile, exhibited runny noses and had difficulty breathing, per the study. Three cats also developed severe symptoms. RELATED VIDEO: Cat And Dog Cuddle Within the study, researchers also discovered that time a pet owner spent with their canine companion did not have an effect on the pet getting COVID-19, while it was the opposite for cats. The more time cats spent with their owners who contracted COVID-19, the more likely they were to be infected, the study said, also singling out cats who slept on their owner's bed as having a higher risk of obtaining the illness. Lead study author Dr. Dorothee Bienzle, a professor of veterinary pathology at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College, told NBC News that people who get COVID-19 should protect their pets in ways such as wearing a mask and avoiding contact with their pets as much as possible. "At this point, we should assume that if we get infected, that our pets are susceptible, too, and they should be treated as any other household member," she told the outlet. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.