LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Since a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City tested positive for COVID-19, a question many people may be asking across the country is, “Are my pets safe?”
Dr. Zoli Gyimesi, senior veterinarian at the Louisville Zoo, told WAVE 3 News he wasn’t surprised to hear the news out of New York. He said new information about the cornavirus is coming in “fast and furious.”
“You know, [it’s] not totally shocking," Gyimesi said. “There’s some preliminary science that suggests domestic cats are able to be infected and the virus can replicate in domestic cats. And so tigers are not that far away from a domestic cat.”
The Louisville Zoo is now following stricter protocol, especially with zookeepers who handle big cats.
“We are asking our cat keepers, so all the keepers that care for our snow leopards, tigers, etc. to wear a mask or some kind of facial covering when they’re within six feet of a cat," Gyimesi said.
Gyimesi said it’s not time to be alarmed about house cats, or pets in general, just yet because at its core, COVID-19 is passed predominantly from human to human. Passing it to a pet is rare, but Gyimesi said some animals, including cats, have certain receptors that make it possible for the virus to latch on and live.
“Some of the data suggests that cats and ferrets and bats all potentially can be infected by this virus," Gyimesi said. "It might not cause the same disease as in people, but they can become infected.”
The new research comes at a time when dozens of people are adopting and fostering animals. A spokesperson for the Kentucky Humane Society told WAVE 3 News as of Tuesday, the shelter has 240 animals in foster care, which is 100 more than usual.
In a time where many people are alone in their homes, pets can serve as the perfect companion. But the last thing a person wants to do is get their companion sick.
Gyimesi said if you’re feeling under the weather, the best thing to do is keep your distance.
“To not only isolate from other people, but also isolate from animals," Gyimesi said. "So if that’s possible, it’s best if the cats and dogs and whatever other pet you have are away from you.”