Rabies in Cats

Rabies is a deadly virus that is very contagious for pets including cats. Today, our Edgewater vets discuss the impact the rabies virus can have on cats including how common it is, the symptoms, and how it is prevented.

What Is Rabies?

Although the rabies virus is highly contagious, it can be avoided. The mammalian central nervous system is affected by this disease. The illness is spread by animal bites, and it moves from the bite site along nerves until it reaches the spinal cord, where it then moves on to the brain. The infected animal will begin to exhibit symptoms as soon as the rabies virus enters the brain and frequently passes away within 7 days.

How Does Rabies Spread?

Rabies can affect any mammal, but it is most commonly spread by wildlife in the United States, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. Rabies is typically prevalent where there are large numbers of feral cats and dogs that have not received a vaccination.

Rabies is most frequently spread through animal bites, and it is spread through the saliva of infected mammals. Additionally, if an open wound or mucous membranes, such as the gums, come into contact with an infected animal's saliva, rabies can spread. Your cat is more likely to contract an infection if it interacts with wild animals frequently.

What are the chances of getting rabies from a cat scratch?

In the unlikely event that your cat carries the rabies virus, she or he may infect you, the other people and animals in your house, as well as the cat. People can contract rabies when the saliva of an infected animal, such as your cat, comes into contact with a cut or a mucous membrane. Although it is extremely uncommon and unlikely, rabies can spread through scratching. Calling your doctor right away is essential if you have any suspicions that you may have come into contact with the rabies virus. This will allow them to administer you a rabies vaccine and stop the disease's progression.

How Common is Rabies in Cats?

Thankfully today rabies isn't common among cats largely thanks to the rabies vaccine, which is mandatory for household pets in most states to help prevent the spread of this deadly illness. However, this virus is now more common in cats than it is in dogs with 241 recorded cases of rabies in cats in 2018. Most often cats get rabies after being bitten by a wild animal, even if you have an indoor cat they are still at risk for rabies because infected animals such as mice can enter your home and spread the condition to your cat. if you believe your kitty has been bitten by another animal we recommend calling your vet to make sure your feline friend hasn't been exposed to the rabies virus, even if they are vaccinated.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Cat Rabies?

Generally, there are three recognizable stages of the rabies virus in cats, and thus how you can tell if a cat has rabies:

Prodromal stage - A rabid cat will typically exhibit changes in behavior that differ from their usual personality at this stage; for example, if your kitty is normally shy, they may become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you notice any behavioral changes in your cat after an unknown bite, keep them away from other pets and family members and contact your veterinarian right away.

Furious stage - This stage is the most dangerous because it makes your pet nervous and even vicious. They might cry out excessively and experience seizures and stop eating. 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. 

How Long Will It Take for My Cat to Show Symptoms of Rabies?

If your cat has been exposed to the rabies virus, it will not show any immediate signs or symptoms. The typical incubation period is three to eight weeks, but it can range from 10 days to a year.

The time it takes for symptoms to appear is entirely dependent on the location of the infection. A bite closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others, and the severity of the bite will also play a role.

How are Rabies Treated in Cats?

If your cat starts displaying symptoms of rabies, there is unfortunately 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.

Provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian if your pet has received the rabies vaccine for kittens, including all required boosters. If anyone comes into contact with their saliva or is bitten by your pet (including yourself), advise them to see a doctor right away. Unfortunately, unvaccinated animals are always fatal from rabies, which usually kills them within 7 to 10 days of the initial symptoms.

If your cat is diagnosed with rabies you will have to report the case to your local health department. An unvaccinated pet that is bitten or exposed to a known rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, or according to local and state regulations. A vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human, conversely, should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.

Your pet should be humanely euthanized to ease their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home. If your cat dies suddenly of what you suspect to be rabies, your vet may recommend having a sample from the cat’s brain examined. Direct testing of the brain is the only way to diagnose rabies for sure.

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.

If you are concerned that your cat might have been bitten by a rabid animal, isolate them from all other pets and family members and contact our Edgewater vets right away.