Can Cats Get Coronavirus? Early Research Says Yes

After a Bronx Zoo tiger tested positive for COVID-19, early research hints that cats can get coronavirus.

News broke on Monday that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, which raised eyebrows for a few reasons: 1) How did a tiger catch the contagion? 2) Where does Tiger King come into play here? And 3) Wait, can my cat get coronavirus?

Unfortunately, early research shows that it's not just big cats that are susceptible to COVID-19, but house cats as well. In a study conducted in the Wuhan province of China, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, blood samples were drawn from just over 100 cats and were studied. The researchers found that 15 of the cats tested positive for COVID-19.

"Immediate action should be implemented to keep a suitable distance between humans and companion animals such as cats, and strict hygiene and quarantine measures should also be carried out for these animals," the study authors wrote.

A second study, also conducted in Wuhan and not yet peer-reviewed, was first performed on eight cats, five of which were inoculated with COVID-19. Three of the infected animals were placed in cages next to cats that didn't have the virus, leading one of the exposed cats to also become infected. The findings were then replicated in a second group of cats, leading researchers to believe that transmission occurred through respiratory droplets. As Scientific American notes, however, "This is very early science that may well change with further study."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that house pets have gotten the coronavirus outside of the U.S., including cats and dogs. In early March, for example, a dog in Wuhan made headlines for contracting COVID-19 from its owner. But the CDC cautions that this is rare, with only a very small number of examples. The first known case in the U.S. of an animal contracting coronavirus, in fact, is the now-famous Bronx Zoo tiger, according to the CDC.

But, there is good news. The CDC notes that "we do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States." Similarly, "We do not have evidence to suggest that imported animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States." And for more coronavirus FAQs, check out 13 Common Coronavirus Questions—Answered by Experts.


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