Last week, a four-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for coronavirus. The tiger, named Nadia, is thought to have contracted the virus from a zookeeper who was showing no symptoms of the illness.
The news comes as a domestic cat tested positive for the COVID-19 virus in Belgium. The cat showed symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting and coughing.
There are no reports of cats transferring the virus to humans, research by medical specialists in the subject indicate, But humans can transfer the virus to the cats.
However, this news highlights the ever-changing information about the COVID-19 virus, as it was previously thought that animals and pets could not carry the virus.
A Chinese study found that the virus replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks, but more efficiently in ferrets and cats. It found that the virus transmits in cats via respiratory droplets. So, what is it about cats in particular that makes them so susceptible to the virus and not other animals?
The answer lies in the receptors the virus needs to bind to in order to get inside cells and start replicating.
It is thought that when the coronavirus enters the human body, it attaches to proteins on cell receptors called ACE2 proteins. These allow the virus to enter the cell and reprogramme it to make more viruses.
As cats do not transmit the virus to humans, there is no need to change the way you handle your cat. However, if the cat is in a household where somebody has symptoms, it is a good idea to keep it indoors to stop it from infecting other cats and making them unwell.
If the cat is from a household where there are no symptoms, it should be free to roam as normal.