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Many pet parents responded with concern when it was reported this week that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo had tested positive for the novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
If a tiger can catch it, what about our household pets, they wondered? And could I catch coronavirus from my pet?
Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, is doing fine having suffered just a cough and loss of appetite before she was tested for the virus. So are the other three tigers and three lions at the zoo that were showing similar symptoms but have not been tested.
Another feline case in the news the past few days comes from Belgium where a household cat was believed to have contracted the virus from her owner, the first human-to-cat transmission reported. She recovered from the symptoms of respiratory distress, nausea, and diarrhea in about nine days. A veterinarian has not examined the cat, so the infection has not been confirmed.
It marks only the third time where a pet has reportedly been infected by humans in the entire world. Two dogs in Hong Kong, who were in close contact with people carrying the virus, tested “positive” for the virus but did not display any symptoms.
Neither the tiger nor the Belgium cat’s infections should make cat owners fear for their pets or be concerned that pets may pass the virus to humans, said the zoo’s veterinarian Dr. Paul Calle.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no evidence that pets can spread the virus to people.
The scant number of cases of felines reported to have COVID-19 despite the existence of millions of cats in the world shows it’s extremely rare for cats to contract the novel coronavirus (although they are susceptible to a different, more common kind of coronavirus).
The advice regarding pets and COVID-19 remains focused on the remote possibility that an infected person could shed the virus onto their pet, and the pet could spread the virus to an uninfected person who touches them.
How to keep yourself and your pet healthy:
- Social distancing means avoiding other peoples’ pets (and keeping your pets from them) for now. That means keeping six feet apart from others when dog walking and no petting other people’s animals.
- Wash your hands with soap (again!) after touching your dog or cat.
- If you are sick with coronavirus symptoms or have tested positive, you should limit your contact with your pets as much as possible and allow other household members to care for them.