Rabies is a highly contagious, scary disease, especially for pet owners. Here, our Rancho Cucamonga veterinarians explain the rabies virus in cats, its symptoms, and why vaccinating against it is important.
Rabies & Your Cat's Health
Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted through contact with the saliva of an infected animal. This virus affects mammals such as pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans.
Approximately 5,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported each year, majority being among wild animals. Animals that are most likely to carry the rabies virus include bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.
Cats are more likely to contract rabies than dogs which is believed to be due to lower vaccination rates in cats. Rabies is almost always fatal. Once signs of rabies appear, the animal will typically die within a few days.
Rabies Incubation Period & Spread
If your cat contracts rabies through the bite of an infected animal or by otherwise coming in contact with the saliva of an infected animal it will typically take 10 - 14 days for your pet to begin showing symptoms. That said, depending on how your pet was exposed to the virus it can take months for symptoms to appear.
Your pet can pass on the rabies virus to other animals and humans as soon as the virus is present in their saliva. This occurs about 10 days before symptoms appear.
There Is No Test For Rabies
If your cat is not vaccinated against rabies and comes in contact with an infected animal you will have to make some very difficult decisions.
Because you cannot test an animal for rabies, pet parents in this position are forced to choose between two options - to euthanize their sweet cat or to quarantine the pet and wait for symptoms to appear. Pets that are quarantined are unlikely to survive even if they do not show symptoms initially.
A rabies diagnosis can only be confirmed by the appearance of symptoms, or through the testing of brain tissue following the animal's death.
Symptoms of Rabies in Cats
Cats with rabies may show a variety of signs and symptoms, including:
- Excessive drooling
- Uncharacteristic fearfulness, aggression, or even affection
- Barking or meowing differently
- Biting at the site where they were exposed to the virus
- Overreaction to light, sound, or touch
- Uncharacteristic aggression
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of balance when walking
- Partial or complete paralysis
There Is No Treatment For Rabies
Once your pet has been infected with rabies there is nothing your vet can offer you to treat the disease. Euthanasia and quarantine are the only options.
This is why prevention is so very important.
The Importance of The Rabies Vaccine for All Pets
While state vaccination requirements vary, keeping your pet's rabies vaccine up-to-date protects both your pets and the human members of your family against this deadly neurological disease.
Indoor Cats & The Rabies Vaccine
Many cat owners mistakenly believe that indoor cats do not need to be vaccinated against rabies. But indoor cats need protection too! Our cunning feline friends often manage to sneak out when our backs are turned, exposing them to the risk of coming in contact with infected animals. It is also the case that bats and rodents can make their way indoors where they could put your pet at risk. Not getting your pet vaccinated is simply too risky.
The Bottom Line
It is up to the owner to ensure their cat lives a happy, healthy, low-risk life. Keeping your pet vaccinated against preventable diseases such as rabies is an essential part of fulfilling that role.
If you are unsure about whether to get your pet vaccinated, speak to your vet. At Rancho Regional Veterinary Hospital our veterinary professionals are always happy to address any concerns you may have and answer your questions. We are here to help you keep your pet happy and healthy.
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.