If A Tiger Can Get Coronavirus, What About My Cat?

On Sunday, a four-year-old Malayan Tiger named Nadia, who lives at the Bronx Zoo, tested positive for COVID-19. Nadia is believed to be the first tiger in the world to contract the virus. 

Thankfully, she is doing well and expected to be fine. 

“She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough,” according to a statement from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Thankfully, Nadia and her peers are “all are expected to recover.” The zoo noted that their “cats were infected by a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms. Appropriate preventive measures are now in place for all staff who are caring for them, and the other cats in our four WCS zoos, to prevent further exposure of any other of our zoo cats.”

The Downtown Alliance wishes a speedy recovery to Nadia and her friends, and sends best wishes to the dedicated personnel and caretakers working to keep the zoo safe. 

But if a tiger can get the virus, what about our pet cats?

First, there is no need to panic. “To date, there’s no evidence that any person has been infected by their pets,” Dr. Paul Calle, head vet at the Bronx Zoo, told CBS2, “and the few reports there are of test positive in animals, either the animal was never sick, or it’s not clear the animal was sick from COVID. And when you look at this global pandemic going on for months, sweeping across the globe, if any animal was significantly being affected and being sick, people would know it.”

Still, if you have symptoms of the virus, it’s best to reduce contact with your pet just like you would with other humans. There are no cases of humans spreading COVID-19 to their pets domestically, but there is a small number of reported cases outside the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is promoting erring on the side of caution until more is known about how the virus may be transmitted between humans and companion animals. Here are the official guidelines to keep your pet healthy if you show symptoms of coronavirus:

-When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.

-Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

-If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

If you’re worried about your cat spreading the virus to you, you can rest easy.

According to the USDA, currently “there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets or livestock, can spread COVID-19 infection to people.”

Remember: In New York, veterinarians are considered essential businesses, so if you have concerns about your pet’s health you can give them a call. Here are some veterinarians in Lower Manhattan: 

Battery Park Veterinary Hospital
21 South End Ave
(212) 786-4444

Holistic Vet, Dr. Marcie Fallek
40 Exchange Place
(212) 216-9177

Manhattan Vet Center
32 Broadway
(212) 951-6866

New York Veterinary Practice
71 Broadway
(212) 401-3025

photo: Miss Gray, courtesy of the author