Very recently, a cat in the state of Idaho was diagnosed with the disease of rabies. This is noteworthy because this is the first time that something like this has happened in the state since 1992. For those who are curious about how this happened, it is speculated that the cat came into contact with an infected bat. In short, no mammal is immune to rabies. However, some mammals serve as natural reservoirs for the virus, with the result that they have variants of the virus associated with them. Terrestrial examples include foxes, skunks, and raccoons. However, there are a number of insect-eating bats that serve as reservoirs for rabies as well, which can be found throughout the United States with the sole exception of the state of Hawaii. Since the cat had a variant of the virus associated with bats, chances are good that it became infected by coming into contact with an infected bat.
Regardless, this incident is a reminder that cat owners should treat the threat of rabies with the utmost seriousness. After all, rabies can be found throughout the United States with the sole exception of the state of Hawaii, meaning that there is a constant risk of a pet coming into contact with an infected animal. Should that happen, said pet could pose a threat to the pet owner as well, seeing as how no mammal is immune to rabies.
Why Is Rabies So Terrifying?
The symptoms of rabies are very unpleasant. Examples range from fevers and headaches to bouts of nausea, bouts of confusion, and straight-up hallucinations. However, rabies is most infamous because of the way in which it repurposes its victim’s body to make it easier for itself to spread to other victims. Something that manifests in a number of unmistakable symptoms.
In short, the rabies virus is carried in the victim’s saliva. As a result, rabies causes excessive salivation in its victims, which is combined with problems with swallowing. On top of this, it is common for victims to develop a fear of water. Something that is wholly unsurprising when either attempting to drink or even intending to drink can cause excruciating spasms of the muscles in the throat as well as the larynx. Finally, rabies causes its victims to become much more aggressive, thus increasing the chances of their infected saliva entering the bodies of new victims through bite wounds. None of these symptoms are coincidental because when combined, they create a very effective and very efficient way for the virus to spread itself to new victims.
Speaking of which, the rabies virus needs to spread with this kind of speed because its victims don’t live very well. Generally speaking, someone who has fallen victim to rabies will die within just 2 to 10 days of showing their first symptoms. Even worse, it is next to impossible for someone to survive rabies even if they receive intensive care in time, as shown by how the number of people who have managed to survive the disease after showing symptoms can be counted in the very low double-digits in spite of the fact that thousands and thousands of people die from it on an annual basis. Based on this, it should be very, very clear that rabies isn’t something that pet owners can take a chance on because the consequences are so severe.
What Can Cat Owners Do to Protect Their Pets?
There are various things that cat owners can do to protect their pets as well as themselves from rabies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of these things involve minimizing contact with potential sources of the virus. However, there are also some very important steps that should be taken in case interested individuals have the slightest cause for suspicion that they have been bitten by something carrying the rabies virus.
First and foremost, there are vaccines for rabies that can be used to prevent it both before and after exposure to the virus. Furthermore, there are minimal side effects, seeing as how between 35 and 45 percent of people will experience some pain as well as some redness at the injection site while between 5 and 15 percent of people will experience something worse such as a fever or a sensation of nausea. With that said, the rabies vaccine comes at a cost, meaning that most people won’t get it unless they have either been exposed or believe that they have a high chance of being exposed to rabies. Meanwhile, in a lot of places, rabies vaccination is a basic requirement for pets because of the fear of the potential consequences should such an infectious disease spread beyond the means of the local authorities to control it. Naturally, interested individuals will want to check in with their veterinarian about how often they should be getting their cat vaccinated, both to remain in compliance with the law and to make sure that their beloved companion is as protected as possible.
Second, it might be best to keep the cat indoors as much as possible, thus minimizing the chances of something bad happening to them. Even when cat owners let their cats outside, they should be keeping a close eye on their pets so that they know what happens to them. By being informed in this manner, cat owners can make the best choices for the sake of their pets’ wellbeing. This is critical because one of the likeliest ways for a pet to be infected with rabies is through coming into contact with a wild animal carrying the virus.
Third, it is a good idea to avoid wild animals as much as possible. Generally speaking, wild animals are not friendly towards humans. As a result, when a person spots a wild animal that isn’t afraid of them, that could be a sign that they should be avoiding it lest it is carrying something dangerous. This emphasis on avoidance extends to the home, in which case, it translates into a need to make sure that nothing wild can get in. In particular, cracks and other openings should be sealed to keep out bats.