Are you thinking it may be a hassle to get your cat vaccinated against rabies? The truth is that in most US states, pets' rabies shots must be kept up to date. Equally important is the fact that one day, this vaccine could save your pet's life. Our Elk Grove vets explain.
Rabies & Your Cat's Health
This deadly virus impacts a wide range of mammals, including pets, wildlife, livestock and humans. Rabies affects the brain and is transmitted through contact with saliva from an infected animal.
About 5,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported to CDC annually, the vast majority of which care cases occur in wild animals. Bats, raccoons, foxes and skunks are the animals most likely to carry the rabies virus.
Cats are more likely to contract rabies than dogs. This is believed to be due to lower vaccination rates in cats. Rabies is almost always fatal. Once symptoms of rabies appear, an infected animal will typically die within a few days.
Rabies Incubation Timeframe & Spread
Cats can become infected with rabies either by being bitten by another infected animal or by coming into contact with the saliva of an infected animal. It will typically take 10 to 14 days for your pet to start showing symptoms. That said, symptoms may take months to appear depending on how your kitty was exposed to the virus.
As the virus is present in their saliva, your pet can pass on the rabies virus to other animals and humans. This occurs about 10 days before symptoms appear.
There Is No Test For Rabies
If your cat comes into contact with an infected animal and has not been vaccinated against rabies, you will have some very difficult decisions to make.
Since animals cannot be tested for rabies, pet parents in this position are forced to choose between two options - to euthanize their sweet kitty or to quarantine their pet and wait for symptoms to appear. Quarantined pets are unlikely to survive, even if they do not show symptoms initially.
A diagnosis of rabies can only be confirmed by the appearance of symptoms, or through the testing of brain tissue following the animal's death.
How to Tell if a Cat has Rabies
Cats with rabies may show a variety of symptoms. Here are some signs of rabies in a cat:
- 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
Rabies & Cat Scratches
Sometimes, we will receive calls from concerned cat parents and kitty lovers asking, "What are the chances of getting rabies from a cat scratch?"
Since rabies is usually transmitted through the saliva, it's unlikely that rabies could be transmitted through an infected cat's scratch. Any minimal potential for spread via a scratch is because scratching is often associated with biting and hissing, which can aerosolize and transmit the virus to another individual.
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
As a pet parent, it is up to you to do all you can to help your pet live a long and healthy 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 Bruceville Pet 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.