Platinum-based heterogeneous catalysts are critical to many important commercial chemical processes, but their efficiency is extremely low on a per metal atom basis, because only the surface active-site atoms are used. Catalysts with single-atom dispersions are thus highly desirable to maximize atom efficiency, but making them is challenging. Here we report the synthesis of a single-atom catalyst that consists of only isolated single Pt atoms anchored to the surfaces of iron oxide nanocrystallites. This single-atom catalyst has extremely high atom efficiency and shows excellent stability and high activity for both CO oxidation and preferential oxidation of CO in H2. Density functional theory calculations show that the high catalytic activity correlates with the partially vacant 5d orbitals of the positively charged, high-valent Pt atoms, which help to reduce both the CO adsorption energy and the activation barriers for CO oxidation.