New York tiger contracts COVID-19 from a human, vet says it can happen to house cats too

The case of a tiger in New York catching the coronavirus has gotten the zoo community and people around the country talking.

The Malaysian Tiger at the Bronx Zoo developed a dry cough and tested positive for COVID-19 at a veterinary hospital, and veterinarians say if a big cat like a tiger can get it, so can your house cat.

The tigers at the Phoenix Zoo, Indah and Jay, enjoyed a beautiful afternoon Monday. The zoo veterinarian says they have not shown any symptoms of sickness.

"We are taking precautions," says Dr. Gary West, Phoenix Zoo Vice President of Animal Health and Collections. "Those who handle the tigers and the lions, we are gloves and masks, as well as those who prepare their foods," he explained.

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New York is a hotspot for COVID-19, and veterinarians speculate that the tiger at the Bronx Zoo caught the virus while she was in close contact with one of its keepers. It’s believed that the infected keeper was not showing any symptoms at the time.

“Cats have an enzyme similar to people, and dogs [are] not likely to get infected,” West said.

Another animal that can contract the virus from humans? Ferrets.

If a pet owner suspects their cat might have it, unfortunately there’s currently no way to know for sure.

“Right now we are not testing cats for COVID-19," says Sarah Taubenberger, emergency veterinarian at Phoenix Veterinary Referral and Emergency. She still advises you to call your vet, however, if your pet is ill.

She says cats would experience similar symptoms to humans, only milder. She also says humans cannot catch the virus from cats.

If someone in your house has COVID-19, you should probably distance yourself from touching your cat just like you would other people.