Chances are you have heard of rabies. Perhaps the fame of this particular virus is due to the fact that it can so easily infect people, perhaps it is because the behavior of an infected animal is so erratic. Either way, the result of rabies’ fame is that people pursue vaccination programs and prompt treatment which limits the number of people and cats who die from rabies each year.
People and cats who contract rabies almost always do so by being bitten by an infected animal. The infected animal need not be the same species as the person or cat, and, in fact, most cases of rabies are a result of contact with wild animals such as:
Rarely people who visit bat caves will contract rabies without being bitten, but bites are far more likely to spread the disease.
Symptoms of Rabies in Cats
There are several stages in a rabies infection and an infected cat may exhibit any or all of them.
- Shy behavior
- Change in behavior
- Constant licking of bite site
- Sensitivity to sound
- Sensitivity to light
Paralytic/Endstage phase (also called dumb phase)
- Excessive salivation
- Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
- Lolling jaw
- Choking sound
- Respiratory failure
At present, the only treatment for rabies is prevention. People and animals infected with rabies almost never survive.
Because rabies is incurable, it is vital to ensure your pet is properly protected from infection. Be sure to keep your cat’s immunizations up to date as a measure to protect both your pet and yourself. Keep your cat indoors if possible to limit exposure to infected animals, and never approach an animal in the wild, especially if that animal is behaving erratically.
Most veterinarians will recommend you have your kitten vaccinated as early as 8-12 weeks of age depending on the product label and then 1 year thereafter. Boosters should then be administered annually or every 3 years depending on the type of vaccine used and on the state law. Many states have laws that require you keep your cat’s rabies vaccinations up to date so be aware of the laws where you live. It is also essential that you keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date, because an unvaccinated cat that is bitten by a rabid animal will often be euthanized even before demonstrating any symptoms.
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