A veterinary holds a newborn bengal tiger cub called "Covid" at the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center "Africa Bio Zoo", in Cordoba, State of Veracruz, Mexico on April 05, 2020 amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by VICTORIA RAZO / AFP) (Photo by VICTORIA RAZO/AFP via Getty Images)


A veterinary holds a newborn bengal tiger cub called "Covid" at the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center "Africa Bio Zoo", in Cordoba, State of Veracruz, Mexico on April 05, 2020 amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by VICTORIA RAZO / AFP) (Photo by VICTORIA RAZO/AFP via Getty Images)



The Truth About COVID-19 and Your Animals

By: Leah Weber

Experts in the medical and veterinary fields help clear up rumors and answer your burning questions about how COVID-19 affects animals.

April 23, 2020

As we traverse the pandemic and learn more and more about the novel Coronavirus that is impacting humanity as a whole, we continue to worry about our loved ones—including our pets. Every minute, scientists are working hard to learn more about this virus and what it does to humans and animals alike. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) keep the medical community and the public swiftly informed during this tumultuous time.

The Start of the Virus

Understanding coronavirus and its relationship between animals and humans is to understand that this virus likely started in an animal. Animal Planet’s Dave Salmoni spoke with WHO’s Dr. Peter Ben Embarek to learn the facts once and for all. According to Dr. Embarek, “[COVID-19] jumps from an animal we usually raise for foods or hunt for foods. And previous examples are Ebola, the MERS virus in the Middle East,[and] the SARS virus--all jumped to humans from food in places where we raise animals and get too close to some wild animals in our search for food.” Dr. Embarek is a food safety expert from the Department of Food Born Illness and Zoonoses at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

You can watch the interview with Dr. Embarek and other experts in The Zoo: Covid19 & Your Animals airing this Saturday at 11P ET on Animal Planet.

Pet Safety

Cute American shorthair striped cat resting in a drawer with a round shaped hole


Cute American shorthair striped cat resting in a drawer with a round shaped hole

Photo by: Kilito Chan

Kilito Chan

Using that logic, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that animals, and even our pets, could catch the virus just as people do. As we saw in the big cat populations at the Bronx Zoo, there are now confirmed cases of pet cats testing positive for COVID-19 in New York state. These findings were discussed by Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh from the CDC who spoke to The Associated Press saying, “We don’t want people to be afraid of pets. There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.” Though the CDC does recommend social distancing for pets, too—cats should stay inside, and dogs should distance from other dogs and humans.

The cases in New York state still leave us asking questions about the spread of the virus. For example, in the case of one of the infected cats, the owner did not have a confirmed case of COVID-19. However, the owner had a short respiratory illness prior to the cat’s diagnosis and the cat did go outside from time to time. The other cat was in a household with an owner who tested positive for COVID-19, but the other cat in that home that has a clean bill of health. As questions abound, we continue to turn to the WHO.

The World Health Organization’s Stance

The one thing we do know is that the novel coronavirus is called that for a reason—It is new, and we are finding out new things about it every single day. For now, rely on the WHO and OIE’s information and guidelines regarding yourself and your pets. And on the topic of animals, this is their guidance.

  • There is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans. Further evidence is needed to understand if animals and pets can spread the disease.
  • Based on current evidence, human to human transmission remains the main driver.
  • It is still too early to say whether cats could be the intermediate host in the transmission of COVID-19

You can find more information via the World Health Organization’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Next Up

Helping the Los Angeles River Change Course

As a human trying to commute from Long Beach to Downtown Los Angeles to the hills of Pasadena, you probably already know that you’ll be making your way on infamous, traffic-clogged roads filled with obstacles to be avoided.

Caring for Coral at Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium is home to a variety of coral species that come in an array of different shapes and colors. The coral reef wall in Georgia Aquarium’s Tropical Diver gallery is one of the largest coral walls in any aquarium. Propagation aquarists at the Aquarium cultivate and transplant live coral from a behind-the-scenes aquaculture pool to the reef wall in their Tropical Diver gallery.

Saving Hawaii’s Native Species

Not so very long ago, Hawaii was a remote island, populated solely by endemic flora and fauna–and its native inhabitants. Now, however, it is known throughout the world as a must-visit tourist destination, while Americans have moved to the islands in their masses, buying up beachfront properties.

Caring for Endangered Species at Georgia Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium is proud to care for over ten different endangered species, from small poison dart frogs to the largest fish in the sea, whale sharks. Every day, these animals face natural threats as well as human impacts, and as their numbers decrease it affects our planet’s ecosystems.

This Summer, Lake Tahoe Will Get 100,000 Fish Back

For hundreds of years, the Lahontan cutthroat trout swam and spawned in the crystal waters of Lake Tahoe, providing food for native tribes and playing an essential role in the balance of the lake’s ecosystem.

Are Sharks Coming Closer to Our Shores?

Scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have speculated that variables related to high urbanization may be driving higher occurrences of sharks within coastal waters. With high increased levels of urbanization in coastal cities, it’s important for our world to understand how ocean life adapts to the changes in their habitats.

Galápagos Giant Tortoises Are Mysteriously Turning Up Dead in Ecuador

Despite the tough protections, there has been a spate of tortoises killed in recent months, and officials fear the animals have been slaughtered for their meat.

There is Hope for the Future of Polar Bears Threatened by Climate Change

Scientific researchers have recently identified a sub-population of polar bears in southeastern Greenland that survive by hunting on glacial slush. The discovery of their unique behaviors is helping scientists understand the future of this species whose habitats are threatened by climate change.

This Giant Mushroom Is the Largest Organism Ever

These fungi are larger than blue whales and dinosaurs!

How the World Celebrates the Summer Solstice and How You Can Too

June 21st is the longest day of the year, marking this year’s summer solstice. Every year, thousands around the world celebrate the official beginning of summer.