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What Are The Signs Of Rabies In A Cat

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Rabies In Cats: Transmission

Rabies In Cats | Signs Of A Rabid Cat | Understanding Rabies In Cats

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects all mammals. Rabies is an incredibly serious disease that usually results in the death of an animal. It affects the central nervous system, causing acute encephalitis in the carriers.

Rabies is spread through the bite of an infected animal, or injuries developed during fights with an animal infected with rabies. Its important to stress that this disease doesnt occur spontaneously, and can only be transmitted by another animal. Therefore, if your cat is suffering from rabies, it means it was in contact with an infected animal or an infected animals feces. The rabies virus is present in the secretions and saliva of an infected animal. As such, a single bite is enough to transmit the virus.

Unfortunately, rabies is a disease that has no cure. It is a rare disease, and most infected cats end up dying as a result.

How common is rabies in cats? As weve already mentioned, rabies in cats is incredibly rare. Reservoir cats are, however, the most common hosts of rabies in cats.

For more, we recommend reading our article where we discuss how long will a cat live with rabies?

How Is Rabies Transmitted

In the U.S., rabies is often transmitted by wildlife, such as raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks but it can be found in any mammal. Rabies is most commonly found in areas with high populations of unvaccinated feral cats and dogs. Cats are the most common domesticated species found to have rabies.

Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of infected mammals and is most commonly transmitted from a bite from an animal that has been infected by the virus. Rabies can also be transmitted if the saliva of an infected animal comes in contact with an open wound or mucous membranes, such as gums. The more contact your cat has with wild animals, the higher the risk of their infection.

Preventing Rabies In Cats

To prevent rabies, there are a few different ways you can help protect your cat.

  • Schedule regular visits with your vet, make sure your cat is vaccinated, and stay up-to-date on all future rabies vaccinations. States may vary on how often they require cats to be vaccinated against rabies, so always check with your veterinarian to make sure your cats vaccines are current.

  • If possible, keep your cat indoors and under your supervision. Outdoor cats are at a greater risk of being exposed to wildlife that could be infected with rabies.

  • Spay/neuter your cat to help keep the number of unwanted cats to a minimum.

  • Contact animal control if you see stray animals wandering around the neighborhood they may be ill or unvaccinated and a potential threat to your pet.

  • Contact animal control if you see any unusually friendly wild animals . Lack of fear in typically shy wild animals is often a sign of rabies. As cute as these animals may be, do not touch, pet, or interact with them in any way. Rabbits and rodents rarely contract rabies but can carry other diseases that are contagious to humans, dogs, and cats.

  • Do not ever touch or pick up a bat bats are frequent carriers of rabies. If you find your cat playing with a dead or injured bat, call your veterinarian immediately.

Vaccination is the key to preventing rabies.

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The Symptoms Of Rabies In Cats

Generally, there are three recognizable stages of the rabies virus in cats, we have listed the stages below as well as the signs and symptoms that are seen in each stage:

Prodromal stage – Usually in this stage, a rabid cat will show changes in their behavior that is different from their usual personality, if your feline companion is generally shy, they could become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you notice any abnormalities in your cat’s behavior after they have gotten 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. 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 stage is where a rabid cat will go into a coma and is unable 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.

What Is The Care For Animal Bites

Rabies symptoms In cat

For superficial bites from a familiar household pet that is immunized and in good health:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water under pressure from a faucet for at least 5 minutes, but do not scrub, as this may bruise the tissue. Apply an antiseptic lotion or cream.

  • Watch for signs of infection at the site, such as increased redness or pain, swelling, drainage, or if the person develops a fever. Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these symptoms happen.

For deeper bites or puncture wounds from any animal, or for any bite from a strange animal:

  • If the bite or scratch is bleeding, apply pressure to it with a clean bandage or towel to stop the bleeding.

  • Wash the wound with soap and water under pressure from a faucet for at least 5 minutes. Do not scrub as this may bruise the tissue.

  • Dry the wound and cover it with a sterile dressing. Do not use tape or butterfly bandages to close the wound as this could trap harmful bacteria in the wound.

  • If possible, locate the animal that inflicted the wound. Some animals need to be captured, confined, and observed for rabies. Do not try to capture the animal yourself. Contact the nearest animal warden or animal control office in your area.

  • If the animal cannot be found or is a high-risk species , or the animal attack was unprovoked, the victim may need a series of rabies shots and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin.

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What Are The Signs Of Rabies In Animals

Once the rabies virus enters the body, it travels along the nerves to the brain. Animals with rabies may show a variety of signs, including fearfulness, aggression, excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, staggering, paralysis and seizures. Aggressive behavior is common, but rabid animals may also be uncharacteristically affectionate. Horses and livestock with rabies also may exhibit depression, self mutilation, or increased sensitivity to light. Rabid wild animals may lose their natural fear of humans, and display unusual behavior for example, an animal that is usually only seen at night may be seen wandering in the daytime.

Although the most common signs of rabies are behavioral changes and unexplained paralysis, rabies should be considered in all cases of unexplained neurological disease. There is no treatment once the clinical signs of rabies appear.

Rabies infection of an animal can only be confirmed after death, through microscopic examination of the animals brain.

How Is Rabies Treated In Cats

If your cat develops rabies symptoms, there is unfortunately nothing you or your veterinarian can do to help them. There is no known cure for rabies, and once symptoms appear, their health will deteriorate in a matter of days.

Provide proof of vaccination to your veterinarian if your pet has received the kitten shots that protect them from rabies, including all required boosters. If anyone comes into contact with their saliva or is bitten by your pet , tell them to see a doctor right away. Unfortunately, rabies is always fatal in unvaccinated animals, usually within 7 to 10 days of the onset of symptoms.

If your cat is diagnosed with rabies, you must notify your local health department. Unvaccinated pets that are bitten or exposed to a known rabid animal must be quarantined for up to six months, or for the length of time specified by local and state regulations. In contrast, a vaccinated animal that has bitten or scratched a human should be quarantined and monitored for 10 days.

To alleviate their suffering and to protect the other people and pets in your home, your pet should be humanely euthanized. If your cat dies suddenly from what you suspect is rabies, your veterinarian may advise you to have a sample of the cat’s brain examined. The only sure way to diagnose rabies is through direct brain testing.

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How Long Does Rabies Take To Show Symptoms In Cats

If your cat is exposed to the rabies virus, they will not show signs immediately. The typical incubation period is roughly three to eight weeks, however, in reality, it can be anywhere from 10 days to as long as a year.

The speed at which symptoms appear depends entirely on the infection site. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others and it also depends on the severity of the bite.

Should My Cat Be Vaccinated

The Clinical Signs And Diagnosis Of Rabies In Cats

Yes. Rabies vaccination is required by law in most states and provinces. Rabies vaccination of cats is important for your safety as well as your cats. Rabies vaccines are very effective and are usually given to kittens at three to four months of age. Depending on your state or provincial laws, and the advice of your veterinarian, revaccination will be recommended at specific intervals.

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Treatment Of Rabies In Cats

If a cat is bitten by another animal who is known or suspected to have rabies, and they are up to date with their rabies vaccination, then they should be given a booster immediately. Unfortunately, this will not always protect them against the disease, but it will give their immune system the best possible chance of fighting it off.

Sadly, there is no effective treatment for rabies in cats, or indeed in any other species. Once the symptoms have appeared, it is always fatal.

Rabies In Cats Symptoms

Symptoms of rabies in cats may vary, but the most common include:

  • Abnormal meowing
  • Loss of weight and appetite
  • Aversion to water
  • Pica
  • Eye and muscle spasms

Some cats dont vomit, others dont excessively drool, and some felines can display nervous symptoms and suddenly drop dead. On the other hand, the aversion or fear of water is a common symptom of animals that have rabies. As such, this disease is also referred to as hydrophobia. However, cats generally dont like water at the best of times, so this will not be a notable symptom.

Many of these symptoms, especially in the early stages, can be confused with other diseases. If your cat displays any of these above mentioned symptoms and has recently been in a fight, we recommend going to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

For more, read about the most common diseases in cats.

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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Rabies

The first symptoms of rabies can appear from a few days to more than a year after the bite happens.

At first, theres a tingling, prickling, or itching feeling around the bite area. A person also might have flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headache, muscle aches, loss of appetite, nausea, and tiredness.

After a few days, neurological symptoms develop, including:

  • irritability or aggressiveness
  • weakness or paralysis
  • extreme sensitivity to bright lights, sounds, or touch

Someone with rabies can produce a lot of saliva , and muscle spasms in their throat might make it hard to swallow. This causes the foaming at the mouth effect that has long been associated with rabies infection. It also leads to a fear of choking or what seems like a fear of water, another well-known rabies sign.

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How Did My Cat Get Rabies

Signs of Rabies in Cats

Cats usually contract rabies through the bite of an infected animal. The saliva, which contains the virus, enters the victims tissues and attaches itself to the local muscles for a few days before infiltrating the local nerves and beginning its slow climb to the brain. At this point, the virus is more evident in all body secretions, including saliva.

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Diagnosis Of Rabies In Cats

If your cat has been bitten by an animal that you suspect might carry the rabies virus or is displaying symptoms associated with rabies, but your cat is not displaying these symptoms, he/she will be quarantined for a ten day period. It is important to inform the veterinarian of the state of the animal that bit your cat as immediate treatment may be necessary. The veterinarian will review your felines medical record, paying close attention to when her last rabies vaccination was administered. After the 10 day quarantine, the vet will reevaluate the cat and decide if she has been infected.

If your cat is displaying symptoms associated with rabies, the diagnosis can be difficult as early symptoms associated with rabies can be confused with a number of other common feline health concerns. The only true way of diagnosing rabies is by a direct examination of the cats brain. The feline will have to be euthanized to perform a post-mortem antibody test using immunofluorescent dyes.

How Long Is The Incubation Period Between A Bite From An Infected Animal And The Appearance Of Symptoms In The Cat

This can vary from ten days to one year or longer. Incubation in the cat is generally less than in the dog and is typically three to eight weeks. Death usually occurs within ten days from the first onset of signs.

The speed at which clinical signs develop depends upon:

1. The site of infection. The nearer the bite is to the brain and spinal cord, the quicker the virus reaches the nervous tissue and causes symptoms.

2. The severity of the bite.

3. The amount of virus injected by the bite. Rabies virus is not always present in saliva of an infected animal.

“Rabies virus is not always present in saliva of an infected animal.”

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What Are The Symptoms Of Rabies In Cats

It is important to remember that you can never tell if an animal has rabies just by looking at it. Sometimes, especially in the early stages, signs can be very discrete or even absent.

This being said, many cats do show symptoms. These can be summarized in 3 categories based on when they manifest: the early phase, the furiousphase, and the paralyticphase.

These stages often occur in this order, especially in cats, but not always. In some cases, the phases can overlap, or some phases can be completely skipped altogether, and the animal can pass away quite early on in the process.

Here is a summary of the symptoms that can be noticed in each phase, and how long the stage might last:

  • May seem anxious and jumpy
  • Changes in demeanor
  • Light avoidance
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itching and licking of the inoculation site
  • Behavior might become unpredictable and aggressive
  • Snapping at the air or seems to be seeing things
  • Eating or attacking unusual objects
  • Attacking bars or walls of a crate or kennel
  • Incoordination and disorientation
  • Excessive drooling and foaming at the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing and blinking

Is It Possible To Survive A Bite From A Rabid Animal

Symptoms of rabies in cats

In some cases, there is no rabies virus in the saliva at the time the rabid animal bites another. In this situation, the bitten animal will not develop rabies. However, once the symptoms of rabies develop, the disease will almost invariably progress to death.

“It is possible to interrupt the progression from an infected bite to the onset of signs by the early post-bite use of anti-rabies serum.”

There are very rare and poorly documented cases where people or animals have recovered. However, as Louis Pasteur was the first to show, it is possible to interrupt the progression from an infected bite to the onset of signs by the use of early post-bite anti-rabies serum. This antiserum contains specific immune antibodies to the virus. The most important method for preventing the progression of rabies is by administering an immediate dose of rabies vaccine. The vaccine stimulates the bitten animal to develop its own neutralizing antibodies to the rabies virus.

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Can I Catch Rabies

Yes, the disease is zoonotic, meaning it can be transmitted from an animal to hummans. However, it is only transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. The virus is present in the saliva of the infected animal only for a limited time.

“…seek the advice of a doctor without delay.”

If you are bitten by any animal that may be rabid, you should immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek the advice of a doctor without delay. Suspicious animals include stray or feral dogs or cats and any wild animal, particularly if the animal is showing unusual behavior such as lack of fear of people, excessive salivation, or aggression.

In February of 2018 the World Health Organization issued a new rabies vaccination and post-exposure recommendation. Those who have been bitten and have not previously been vaccinated for rabies should receive immunoglobulin promptly, followed by a series of vaccines. Those previously vaccinated do not require immunoglobulin, but will still receive several vaccines again the virus.

Cat Rabies What Is It

Rabies is a serious viral disease.

It can infect any warm-blooded animal. This includes cats, dogs and people.

In the United States, rabies is reported in cats more than any other domestic species.

It affects the brain and spinal cord of its victim. And its often fatal.

Rabies occurs in most countries. Some lucky countries are rabies-free.

In the US, every state but Hawaii sees cases of it.

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