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Cats & Rabies: What are the signs and symptoms?

Cats & Rabies: What are the signs and symptoms?

While you may not be sure if the rabies vaccine is necessary for your cat, especially if they never go outside, we can assure you this is a condition that you would rather be safe than sorry with. Our Fairhaven vets explain the dangers of the rabies virus and why vaccines are so important for your cat's protection.

The Effect of Rabies on Your Cat's Health

Rabies is most commonly transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. The virus travels through the nervous system until it ultimately infects the brain. Rabies affects mammals such as pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans.

Approximately 5,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported to the CDC each year, the vast majority of which are cases occurring in 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 within a few days of the first symptoms appearing.

The Transmission of the Rabies Virus

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.

As soon as the virus is present in the saliva the infected animal can begin to spread it to both animals and people. This occurs about 10 days before symptoms appear.

There is No Accurate Method of Testing

If you choose to not vaccinate your cat and they are bitten by and infected animal then you will need to make a decision.

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.

Cat Rabies Symptoms

The most common symptoms of rabies in cats can include:

  • 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
  • Falling
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Seizures

There is No Cure 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.

Why it is Important to Vaccinate Your Cat Against Rabies

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.

The Importance of Vaccinating Your Indoor Cat

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.

Final Thoughts of Rabies in Cats

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 New England Animal 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.

Is your cat in need of their routine vaccinations including the rabies vaccine? Contact our Fairhaven vets today to book an appointment for your four-legged friend. 

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New England Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Fairhaven companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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