Credit...Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society, via Reuters
A tiger from the Bronx Zoo in NY has tested positive for Covid-19. Now we know that these tigers haven’t flown around the planet, and they certainly do not take the subway; so it is reasonable to assume that the tiger contracted Covid-19 from someone working at the zoo.
A Tiger Is Slightly Sick With the Coronavirus. Your Cats Are Probably OK.
Scientists are still trying to understand which animals may be susceptible to the new coronavirus. Much is unknown, but there’s no evidence so far that pets can spread the virus to people.
When a tiger tests positive for the novel coronavirus, the immediate question is: What about other cats?
Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger who had a dry cough and a slight loss of appetite, tested positive for the virus that has caused a human pandemic, the Bronx Zoo reported on Sunday.
She is doing well, according to Dr. Paul Calle, the Bronx Zoo’s chief veterinarian. So are three other tigers and three lions that show the same symptoms. And, he said, neither Nadia’s infection nor early scientific reports from China of infections among domestic cats should make cat owners fear for their pets, or fear that the cats may pass the virus to humans.
“None of them actually ever acted terribly sick,” Dr. Calle said on Monday of the zoo’s infected cats. But there are many respiratory ailments specific to cats, and the zoo anesthetized Nadia, took samples and sent them for testing to veterinary colleges at Cornell and the University of Illinois, and then to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, for confirmation. The results came back positive.
The test is not the same as the one used for humans, Dr. Calle said, so testing the tiger did not interfere with human testing. “You cannot send human samples to the veterinary laboratory, and you cannot send animal tests to the human laboratories,” he said, “so there is no competition for testing between these very different situations.”
Dr. Calle noted that there had been several experiments in which domestic cats were inoculated with large amounts of the coronavirus, but “that does not replicate what is happening in people’s homes around the world.” The amount of virus the cats were given, directly into the nose, was quite high.
He added, “If cats were generally susceptible, there would have been lots of reports in the preceding months about that.”