Rabies is a fatal virus that spreads easily among pets, particularly cats. Our veterinary experts at Mount Vernon examine the effects of the rabies virus on cats, such as its prevalence, symptoms, and prevention measures.
What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a highly contagious virus that can be prevented. This virus attacks the central nervous system of mammals and spreads through bites from infected animals.
Once infected, the virus travels from the bite site through the nerves to the spinal cord and eventually reaches the brain. When the virus reaches the brain, the infected animal begins to show symptoms and typically dies within a week.
How Does Rabies Spread?
In the United States, raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies, which can also infect any mammal. The risk of rabies is higher in areas with many unvaccinated feral cats and dogs. Rabies is spread through the saliva of infected animals, usually through bites.
It can also spread if an infected animal's saliva comes in contact with open wounds or mucous membranes like the gums. Cats that frequently come into contact with wild animals are at a higher risk of getting infected with rabies. If your cat has rabies, it can transmit the virus to you or other animals in your home.
Humans can get rabies if they have broken skin or mucus membranes that come into contact with the infected animal's saliva. Although it's rare, it is possible to get infected with rabies by being scratched. If you suspect you have been exposed to the rabies virus, it's crucial to seek medical attention immediately to receive a rabies vaccine and prevent the disease from progressing.
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 another animal has bitten your kitty, 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, below we have listed the stages including the signs and symptoms that accompany each stage:
Prodromal stage - When a cat is rabid, their behavior will change from their usual personality. For example, a shy cat might become more outgoing or the other way around. If your cat behaves abnormally after getting a bite from an unknown animal, keep them away from other pets and family members, and call the vet right away.
Furious stage - This stage is very risky for your pet because it can make them anxious and even aggressive. Your pet may cry a lot, have seizures, and stop eating. The virus is now attacking your pet's nervous system, which makes it hard for them to swallow. This causes the common symptom of excessive drooling, which is also known as "foaming at the mouth."
Paralytic stage - The final stage of rabies in cats is when they fall into a coma and cannot breathe. It's sad to say, but this is usually when pets die. This stage typically happens seven days after symptoms begin, and death usually follows three days later.
How Long Will It Take for My Cat to Show Symptoms of Rabies?
If your cat has been exposed to rabies, it may not show signs right away. It can take anywhere from 10 days to a year for symptoms to appear, but it usually takes about three to eight weeks. How quickly symptoms appear depends on where the cat was bitten and how severe the bite was. Symptoms may appear more quickly if the bite was closer to the spine or brain.
How is Rabies Treated in Cats?
If your cat shows signs of rabies, there's no cure available, and their condition will worsen quickly. To prevent rabies, make sure your cat receives all necessary vaccinations and boosters. If your pet bites someone or exposes them to saliva, advise them to seek medical attention. Rabies is deadly, especially for unvaccinated animals, and symptoms can occur within a week or so.
If your cat has rabies, report it to your local health department, and unvaccinated pets should be quarantined for at least six months. On the other hand, vaccinated animals that bite people should be monitored for ten days. To prevent the spread of the disease, your pet should be euthanized humanely. If you suspect your cat has rabies, the vet may need to examine the brain tissue.
To keep your cat safe from rabies, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure they are up-to-date on all vaccinations, including rabies shots. This is the best way to protect your pet against this fatal disease.
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.