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Coronavirus Update: The Tiger

This week brings another news story about a big cat testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. A tiger from the Bronx Zoo was confirmed SARS-CoV-2 positive by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory. A few tigers and lions showed upper respiratory signs which prompted the testing. It is believed the source was an employee who was “actively shedding” the virus. No other animals are showing any signs and the cats are expected to recover uneventfully. Currently, these animals are being monitored by the CDC and USDA. Please stay tuned as this story continues to develop.

This also comes on the heels of the Nature article suggesting that cats can become infected with SARS-CoV-2. A few more points from last week’s blog. The website that shared the article states posted papers on their website “should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or be reported in news media as established information.” The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) highlights that this article (1) has not been peer reviewed, (2) points out that just because a cat is infected in a lab setting does not mean they will be infected naturally, and (3) only a very small number of animals were used in the experiment making it difficult to draw any conclusions. The AVMA stresses that “nothing in these research articles provides conclusive evidence that cats, ferrets, or other domestic animals can be readily infected with SARS-CoV-2, nor do they demonstrate that cats, ferrets or other domestic animals transmit the virus under natural conditions.”

To put this into a little perspective: We have documented over a million human COVID-19 cases (many more undocumented cases exist). Only 2 dogs, 1 cat and 1 tiger have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. None of these animals showed signs consistent with COVID-19. Unfortunately, no conclusions about COVID-19 can be drawn from the positive Belguim cat (see the previous blog). Idexx, a National Veterinary Laboratory, has tested “more than 4,000 canine, feline, and equine specimens” and reported no positive results.

For more detailed information, please visit the AVMA website.

A few soap box stances for you:

1) When animals are tested, they are using an animal test, not a human test. [The animal tests are not available so you cannot test your cat.]

2) With a large number of infected humans co-existing with a large number of domesticated animals, we are bound to get a few positive pets. A positive test in your pet does not equate to infection and disease.

3) In all instances of a SARS-C0V-2 positive animals, it has been a COVID-19 human that has been the source. If we humans are doing our part (i.e social distancing, washing our hands, covering our mouths, minimizing contact), our cats would be safe and this pandemic would be much reduced.

I employ you to listen to the experts and follow their recommendations as we will continue to see more of these news stories. It is not a time to panic. Instead, take note and let the experts research, study and draw proper conclusions.

In summary:




There is no evidence that pets are a source for SARS-CoV-2.

There is no evidence that pets can spread SARS-CoV-2 to humans.

Severe disease or death have not been reported in pets from COVID-19.


You DO NOT need to get rid of your pets.

If you are unwell, minimize contact with your pets.

If you are unwell, allow someone else to care for your pets.

If your pet becomes unwell, contact your veterinarian