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VERIFY: Cats more likely than dogs to get COVID-19, but petting can’t spread it

Cats are more likely than dogs to contract coronaviruses, but there is no proof of animal-to-human spread, and petting can’t spread germs.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In this age of heightened concern about protecting our families from the COVID-19, animal lovers consider their pets...as people, too.

Credit: Meghann Mollerus

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Good Morning Show viewer Donna Robinson asked, "Wanted to VERIFY -- since the tiger in New York has been diagnosed with COVID-19, are the feline groups more [apt] to get the virus than dogs or other animals? And, can they spread it to humans?

Robinson is referring to the highly-clicked story about the Bronx Zoo in New York, where zookeepers confirmed one of their tigers tested positive for COVID-19, the first known infection of an animal in the U.S.

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


Janine Oliver, DVM - veterinarian and owner of Benessere Animal Hospital


Are cats more likely than dogs to contract coronaviruses like COVID-19? Dr. Oliver affirmed yes, it's true.

"In terms of coronaviruses, cats and ferrets are a little more susceptible to them than dogs. In fact, the coronavirus we used to vaccinate pretty for regularly with dogs is so ubiquitous (with) so much herd immunity, that it's not considered a core vaccine anymore, because dogs fight it off really well on their own," Oliver explained.

Credit: WFMY News 2

So, can pets spread the COVID-19 coronavirus to humans? Oliver agreed with the CDC in saying there is no conclusive evidence of animal-to-human spread. But, what about human-to-human spread by petting an animal?

Oliver explained it is highly unlikely, as coronaviruses tend to harbor on cool, hard surfaces -- the opposite of an animal's fur.

"Let's say we had COVID-19, and we coughed or sneezed on our pet. That would put it on our pet's fur. However, viruses don't transfer off a pet's fur well or fibers, for that matter. They tend to just get stuck there," she said.

Dr. Oliver said her veterinary office, like many others, is taking precautions to protect people and their pets. In most circumstances, human clients are not permitted inside the hospital. So, the veterinary staff is picking up the pets from the parking lot, examining or treating them inside and then taking them back out to their owners.


Cats are more likely than dogs to contract coronaviruses, but there is no proof of animal-to-human spread, and petting them is likely to spread virus germs.

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