Rabies in Cats

Rabies is fatal once symptoms begin.

Rabies is a virus that infects warm-blooded animals. Cats, dogs, and humans can all be infected by this dangerous virus.

Facts About Rabies

Here are some interesting facts that it is important to know about rabies:

How Does Rabies Spread?

Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected animals. Bite wounds in which saliva is deposited under the skin of the victim are the primary way that rabies is transmitted.

Cats are usually infected by wildlife, and it is more common for outdoor cats to contract it than indoor ones. One exception is when rabid bats gain entrance into a home.

Signs of Rabies

Once infected, the virus incubates for a while in the body before it causes signs. This incubation period may last anywhere from 10 days to several years.

In cats, the incubation period is usually 3-8 weeks. Once clinical signs begin, death occurs within 10 days.

Signs of rabies are neurologic because the central nervous system is attacked by the virus. Here are some of those signs:

Diagnosis of Rabies in Cats

Diagnosis of rabies can only be done by examining brain tissue microscopically. That means that there is no test that can be done on a live animal to verify rabies.

In cases where rabies is strongly suspected or the law requires testing because a human has been bitten, the cat will need to be euthanized so the brain can be examined.

Treatment of Rabies

There is no treatment for rabies in cats. It is virtually always fatal once clinical signs begin.

In humans, it is possible to keep an infected person from developing rabies by vaccinating them prior to the point in the illness at which the virus enters the nervous system.

If a cat bites a person, there are laws to follow regarding what should be done. These vary by state, but generally, if the cat's rabies vaccination is current, a booster vaccine may be given and the cat observed for a period of time for any unusual signs. If the cat is not vaccinated, euthanasia and testing for rabies may be required, or sometimes, strict quarantine and monitoring for signs for varying periods of time is allowed.

Your local veterinarian is best suited for providing you with specific information for your area, and you can also visit this website for state-by-state requirements for vaccination and protocols for exposure or human bites: www.rabiesaware.org

Prevention of Rabies

Although the occurrence of rabies in people is low, it is a fatal illness, so it's important to take every precaution possible to avoid it. Here are some things to keep in mind:

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