Discover the dangers of rabies and why vaccinating your feline friend is crucial. Our Meadow Vista vets shed light on this highly contagious virus, which poses a severe health risk to people, pets, and other mammals.
The Deadly Rabies Virus
Rabies is a dangerous virus that targets the central nervous system of various mammals, such as cats, dogs, and even humans. The virus usually enters the body through the bite of an infected animal.
After entering the body, the virus travels through the nerves from the bite location to the spinal cord and then reaches the brain. Once it reaches the brain, the infected animal starts showing symptoms and typically succumbs to the disease within a week.
Which animals have rabies?
Rabies is mainly transmitted by wildlife like raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks, but any mammal can carry and spread the virus. Rabies is more commonly seen in neighborhoods with many unvaccinated stray cats and dogs.
The virus spreads through infected mammal saliva, usually through bites. It can also infect if infected saliva comes into contact with open wounds or mucous membranes like the gums. Cats that have contact with wild animals are at higher risk of getting rabies.
If your cat gets infected with rabies, it can easily spread to you or other pets in your home. People can also get rabies if the saliva of an infected animal contacts broken skin or mucous membranes, but getting infected through scratches is very rare.
If you suspect contact with rabies, it's essential to contact your doctor immediately for a rabies vaccine to prevent the disease from progressing.
Rates of Rabies Cases in Cats
In many states, cats and dogs over 6 months old must receive regular rabies vaccines. Due to the vaccine's success, rabies cases in cats are rare. However, it's important to note that cats are now more commonly affected by the virus than dogs.
In 2018, there were 241 recorded cases of rabies in cats. Cats usually contract rabies from wild animal bites, and even indoor cats are at risk as infected animals like mice can enter homes and spread the virus to them.
If you suspect another animal has bitten your cat, it's essential to contact your vet to ensure your feline friend hasn't been exposed to rabies, even if they are vaccinated.
Signs That Your Cat May Have Rabies
A cat with rabies will begin to display signs in the following 3 stages of progression:
Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid cat will typically exhibit behaviors that are unusual compared to their usual personality. For example, if your kitty is usually shy, they could become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you see any behavioral abnormalities in your cat after they have obtained an unknown bite, keep them away from any other pets and family members, and call your vet immediately.
Furious stage - This stage is the most dangerous because it makes your pet nervous and even vicious. Cat rabies symptoms at this stage include crying out excessively, seizures, and loss of appetite. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents your cat from being able to swallow, leading to the classic symptom of excessive drooling, known as "foaming at the mouth."
Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid cat will go into a coma and won't be able to breathe. Unfortunately, this is the stage where pets usually pass away. This often takes place about seven days after symptoms first appear, with death usually happening after about 3 days.
Length of Time From Infection to Start of Symptoms
Is your cat exposed to the rabies virus? Don't worry if it doesn't show any immediate signs. The incubation period is usually three to eight weeks, but it can be as short as 10 days or as long as a year.
The speed of symptom appearance depends on the infection site, with bites closer to the spine or brain developing faster. The severity of the bite also plays a role.
Treatment for Rabies In Cats
Sadly, if your cat contracts rabies there is nothing you or your vet can do to help them. There is no known cure for rabies, and after symptoms start appearing, their health will deteriorate within a few days.
If your pet has received all the necessary kitten shots to protect against rabies, make sure to provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian. If anyone, including yourself, comes into contact with your pet's saliva or gets bitten, they should seek immediate medical attention. Rabies is always fatal for unvaccinated animals, and symptoms usually appear within 7 to 10 days.
If your cat is diagnosed with rabies, inform your local health department. An unvaccinated pet exposed to a rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, following local and state regulations. On the other hand, a vaccinated animal that bites or scratches a human should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.
If your pet is suspected of having rabies and dies suddenly, your vet may recommend examining a sample from the cat's brain to confirm the diagnosis. Unfortunately, there's no other definitive way to diagnose rabies. Your pet should be humanely euthanized to prevent further spread and protect others in your home.
The best protection against rabies in cats is to provide them with the appropriate vaccinations that help prevent the disease. Talk to your vet about scheduling an appointment to make sure your pet is up to date with their rabies shots and other vaccinations.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.