What is Rabies

Rabies has a diabolical reputation, evoking age-old images of infected animals, usually dogs, foaming at the mouth and viciously attacking humans. Probably for good reason, as this is truly a horrific disease. Rabies is one of few diseases in modern times that are almost 100% lethal and have no cure once symptoms appear.

Rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the central nerve system of warm blooded animals. Infected animals excrete the virus in their saliva. When they bite a healthy animal, or a human, the virus enters the body of its new host, traveling towards the brain along the peripheral nerves.

Symptoms: How To Tell If Your Cat Has Rabies

Symptoms of Rabies can take weeks to months to develop, as the virus gradually makes its way to the brain. Once the brain is affected, a cat is likely to show increasing signs of discomfort for one or more days, followed by a more acute phase, known as "the furious stage" of the disease. During that stage, a diseased cat is likely to undergo extreme behavioral changes and become very aggressive. Finally, the animal enters the paralytic stage, gradually losing control over limbs, becoming increasingly paralysed until it dies.

There is no cure for rabies once symptoms are apparent. The only course of action in case of a diseased animal is to put it to sleep as soon as possible.

What to do is you suspect your cat came in contact with a rabid animal

Due to the extreme nature of this disease, if you suspect your cat may have come into contact with a rabid animal, you must act fast.

Contact your vet immediately to have your cat checked and quarantined. Laws and local regulations determine the length of quarantine, but it is likely to be ten days if your cat is vaccinated and much longer if it is not.

Prevention of Rabies

Prevention is key in dealing with Rabies. You should limit, and preferably prevent, your cat from coming in contact with wildlife. If your cat is allowed outdoors at all, she needs to be vaccinated for Rabies. Some countries and states require by law that cats be vaccinated for Rabies, in which case the cat may need to get the shot, even if she is indoor-only.

As with all cat vaccinations, some cats may be more sensitive and possibly susceptible to Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma. Not all Rabies vaccines are made the same, and if you wish to limit the risk of Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma, you should ask your vet about using the a vaccine that doesn’t contain adjuvant.

Rabies in Feral Cats

Rabies shots are part of the standard TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) protocol. For more information about Rabies and caring for feral cats, please see this page by Alley Cat Allies.