ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The big cats have recovered from respiratory infections at the St. Louis Zoo after being infected with COVID-19 in November. Before becoming sick, the cats had been either partially or fully vaccinated. Their caretakers say they believe this helped them only develop mild symptoms. Now the big cats are eating and behaving normally but they are occasionally coughing or sneezing.
Eight big cats at the Saint Louis Zoo have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in November. The zoo said the animals include two African lions, two snow leopards, two jaguars, one Amur tiger, and a puma.
The St. Louis Zoo shared the good news in a Facebook post: “We always provide exceptional care to our animals, but some of the cats that showed signs of COVID-19 received additional treatments as needed to support them in their recovery. In addition, the keepers closely monitored the big cats’ respiratory rate and effort, and reported changes to the Zoo’s team of veterinarians in real-time so that treatments could be adjusted.”
All of the animals in the Big Cat Country exhibit have been tested weekly. The evaluations are helping veterinarians understand the risk of COVID transmission among animals. The zoo says that no other animals are showing signs of infection. They have not able to identify the source of the infection.
All of the cats at Big Cat Country received a two-dose series of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine specific for animals between Sept. 30 and Oct. 26, 2021, but were likely exposed prior to the second dose.
Zoo officials said all the staffers are required to be vaccinated.