More About Rabies


  • How Would My Cat Get Rabies?Rabies is most often transmitted through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. In rare instances, it can also be spread by licking, when infected saliva makes contact with open cuts or wounds, and with the mouth, eyes, and nose. Rabies has also been documented to be transmitted from human to human through organ donor transplants. The risk for contracting rabies runs highest if your cat is exposed to wild animals. Outbreaks can occur in populations of wild animals (most often raccoons, bats, skunks and foxes) or in areas where there are significant numbers of unvaccinated, free-roaming dogs and cats. In the United States, rabies is reported in cats more than in any domestic species.
  • What Are the General Symptoms of Rabies?  Animals will not show signs immediately following exposure to a rabid animal. Symptoms can be varied and can take months to develop. Classic signs of rabies in cats are changes in behavior (includingaggression, restlessness and lethargy), increased vocalization, loss of appetite, weakness, disorientation, paralysis, seizures and even sudden death.
  • How Is Rabies Diagnosed?  There is no accurate test to diagnose rabies in live animals. The direct fluorescent antibody test is the most accurate test for diagnosis, but it can only be performed after the death of the animal. The rabies virus can incubate in a cat’s body anywhere from just one week to more than a year before becoming active. When the virus does become active, symptoms appear quickly.
  • How Can Rabies Be Prevented?  Vaccination is the key!   Legally, a kitten (or puppy) must be at least 3 months old to receive a rabies vaccine.   Rabies vaccinations are then given every 1-3 years thereafter depending on the type of vaccine given.Vaccinating your cat (or dog) doesn’t just protect her from rabies–it also protects your pet if she bites someone.  Not too mention, you can be fined up to $300 if your cat (or dog) is not vaccinated!  Some local ordinances require lengthy quarantines-or euthanasia-of pets who have bitten someone if the owner does not have proof of current vaccination.  If a healthy, currently vaccinated, domestic cat (or dog) bites a human, it may be captured and quarantined for 10 days.  If no signs of rabies develop during the quarantine period, it is safe to assume the animal did not transmit rabies at the time of the bite. If the pet was shedding the rabies virus, it would have developed symptoms and probably have died within the 10-day period. Because the length of the infectious period in wild animals is not known, most wild animals that bite a human must be destroyed and tested.A cat who is up to date with his vaccinations and who has been bitten by a possibly rabid animal should also be given a rabies booster vaccine immediately and kept under observation for 45 days.
  • What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Been Bitten by a Rabid Animal?  One of the most effective methods to decrease the chances of infection is to immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, and then seek medical attention as soon as possible! You may need to get a series of injections.  Do not attempt to handle or capture a wild animal who is acting strangely (i.e., a nocturnal animal who is out during the day, an animal who acts unusually tame). Report the animal to local animal control officers as soon as possible.  Rabies testing may be done on suspected animals at no charge by the State Department of Health in Lionville.