Coronaviruses have lived and thrived in animals for thousands of years, but only a handful have been known to cause illness in humans.
The coronavirus at the center of the current pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, is incredibly successful at spreading from human to human. As of early April, just four months after it was first detected, the virus had infected over 1 million people and spread to over 180 countries.
It turns out that SARS-CoV-2 can hijack animal cells, too. Scientists believe the disease originated in Chinese horseshoe bats before it jumped into an intermediary animal and, from there, found its way into humans.
The virus is able to inject itself into cells by binding to a cell surface protein known as ACE2, which is present in many species of animal.
Some media reports have shown that the coronavirus can infect our companion animals and more exotic species like tigers and lions but cases are rare.
It appears that transmission of the disease from human to animal is low, and there’s no reason to think you might catch the disease from a feline friend who has been wandering the neighborhood.
The World Health Organization states there is “no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.”