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Since 1984
PAWS' veterinarian, Dr. Gai (left), administers a vaccine injection to tiger Claire, while Tiger Supervisor Renae Smith (right) distracts her with food treats. Claire is showing her affection by rubbing her head and body against the fence.
How Do You Vaccinate a Tiger?
by Jackie Gai, DVM
PAWS Director of Veterinary Services
As a veterinarian who works with wild animals, some of the most common questions I'm asked by people have to do with vaccinating the big cats at PAWS. For example: Do we vaccinate them? What diseases do we vaccinate them against? And finally, how do we administer the vaccines?
At PAWS, we are proud of our comprehensive veterinary program that provides excellent, state-of-the-art medical care tailored to each individual animal's unique needs. One important component of this program focuses on preventative care, including vaccination to protect animals against diseases to which they may be vulnerable. Similar to domestic cats, core vaccines for big cats protect against rabies, distemper, feline calicivirus, and feline viral rhinotracheitis. 
Vaccines are administered by one of our veterinarians with the help of PAWS' animal caregivers. Our veterinarians visit all of our sanctuary residents on a regular basis, so the animals recognize us and are comfortable around us. Tigers are naturally curious and most of them will readily approach a habitat fence line to greet us. (We never share the same space with our big cats and do not have direct contact with them.) We start by positioning a tiger's caregiver outside the fence to distract the tiger from the front. Examples of the distractions we might use include a spritz of perfume, a sprinkling of a spice such as cinnamon, or a crinkly paper bag. We wait until the tiger rubs his or her side against the fence and then the veterinarian quickly injects the vaccine through the fence into a rear leg. Sometimes the distraction is so good, and the tiger so calm, they don't react to the injection at all!
All of our tigers were recently vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. The vaccine is not the same one that is given to humans. It was developed by Zoetis specifically for animal use.
Tigers are very susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and since the start of the pandemic there have been numerous reports of captive big cats in facilities around the world getting sick and even dying because of this potentially deadly virus. At PAWS we maintain strict biosecurity protocols to protect the animals who depend on us, including wearing masks, gloves, keeping a safe distance, and vaccination. We are happy to report that all of PAWS' tigers are doing well since completing their vaccination series, and no adverse effects were seen.
At PAWS, our number one priority is the health and welfare of all the wild animals living at our three sanctuaries. It is thanks to your kind support that we are able to give them the very best care.

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P. O. Box 849, Galt, CA 95632
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Rescued tiger Rosemary in her habitat at PAWS' ARK 2000 sanctuary.
PAWS provides lifetime care to the tigers, bears, elephants, and other animals who call our sanctuaries home. Your kind support provides expert daily care, necessary veterinary treatments, and specialized nutritional support, all tailored to the individual needs of each animal. Your gifts make this excellent care possible.
PAWS is proud of its 4-star rating with Charity Navigator - the highest rating possible. We are part of an elite group of charities with an "exceptional" designation (at least four consecutive years of 4-star ratings), meaning that your gift will have the greatest impact possible. CharityWatch gives PAWS an "A" rating.