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A tiger caught coronavirus. Can your cat get infected?

There are a couple of reports that suggest it’s possible, but the experts say it’s not likely.
Credit: AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — They’re called big cats, but tigers are not Garfield on steroids. 

While a tiger testing positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo naturally raises questions about how vulnerable house cats may be to the coronavirus, veterinarians and public health experts seem confident our pets are safe.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are two reports of cats contracting COVID-19. One was in Belgium and the other was in Hong Kong. But, countless cats – and dogs for that matter – have been completely unaffected by their infected owners.

So, why is that? Well, domestic cats and tigers are not as closely related as you might think.

“They’re even in a different genus,” zoological pathologist Karen Terio told NPR. “It suggests to me that there’s probably a lot of differences in how different cat species even respond to the virus.”

The Centers for Disease Control says even if a cat or dog came down COVID-19, there is no evidence it could spread the virus to humans. But, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t take precautions. 

The AMVA recommends anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 “should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just at you would restrict your contact with other people.”

That means having someone else care for them, if possible. If not, then wash your hands after touching them and avoid hugs or kisses. 

The AMVA says hand-washing after handling animals is a good idea for healthy people too, even when we’re not dealing with a pandemic.

You can find more information from the CDC about pets and coronavirus here.

RELATED: Tiger at New York City's Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

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