When I heard that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, I started to worry about my own little lion, a tabby cat with asthma. I’ve sequestered myself away from friends and family, but could my company be unwittingly putting my cat at risk? While there have been some cases of animals contracting COVID-19, it’s rare — and there are precautions that pet owners can take if they’re worried about their furry family members.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means that they can be passed between animals and humans. In New York City, the virus apparently jumped from an asymptomatic human to three lions and four tigers, including four-year-old tiger Nadia, that tested positive for the virus. The zoo says it expects all of the animals to make full recoveries.
Scientists still don’t know for sure what type of animal first passed the new virus to a person. A wet market, where animals, seafood, and produce are sold, in China was thought to be where the novel coronavirus first made the jump. But a January study found the first person known to get sick from the virus didn’t have contact with the market. Another study found that the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus infecting people was a 99 percent genetic match with one found in pangolins, one of the most trafficked mammals in Asia, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The pangolins might have been an intermediary carrying the virus from bats to humans. Another analysis found that the genome sequence of the novel coronavirus is 96 percent identical to a coronavirus found in bats, which have been identified as the origin of both SARS and MERS.