What Are The Signs of Rabies in Cats?

Cat with Rabies

Cat owners are protective over their pets’ health and worry about common diseases that are easily transmitted from stray cats and dogs or other animals in the wild. Rabies is a preventable disease in cats that claims the lives of thousands each year. It’s a real threat to cats and other household pets and humans. It’s a fatal disease for which there is no known cure. The best course of action is to have your cat vaccinated against the deadly disease. If you fear that your cat has been exposed to rabies, you may wonder what the signs of infection are, and what to do about it. Here is everything you need to know about the signs of rabies in cats, prevention of rabies, and what to do if your cat shows symptoms.

What is rabies?

Pets Web MD explains that rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. The virus enters the body through the bite of a rabid animal and begins to spread from the area of the bite throughout the nerves of the body until reaching the brain. It’s an insidious and unrelenting disease that claims thousands of cats each year. The life expectancy of an animal showing signs of rabies is no more than seven days from the onset. It’s essential to understand that wild or stray animal may have the virus without showing symptoms. It can take a while for the virus to reach the brain and cause the symptoms to manifest. Any wild animal bite or attack from a domesticated animal that is unvaccinated for rabies is a potential threat to your cat. Rabies is a disease that has been around for centuries. VCA Hospitals confirms that known cases were documented as far back as 2300 BC through records that describe the symptoms affecting animals.

How cats get rabies

Most domestic animals are vaccinated for rabies. Many states require that dogs, cats, and other domesticated pets get this life-saving vaccination. Only 241 cases of rabies were reported in 2018, but many cases of rabies go undiagnosed or unreported to health officials. The most common causes of rabies in cats and other domestic animals are from the bite of an infected wild animal or feral cats that have never been vaccinated. The most common rabies carriers are bats, skunks, and raccoons. People who live in rural areas where these animals are more prolific have a higher likelihood of their cat becoming infected. Cats that get into fights with unvaccinated animals are at risk of getting rabies.

How transmissible is rabies?

The incubation period of rabies can be up to ten days or longer from the time that an infected animal bites the cat to when symptoms first appear. It can be as long as three to eight weeks in dogs. The incubation period in cats is far shorter. It is worth noting that the rabies virus is not always present in the saliva of an infected animal. The most common way that rabies is transmitted is through a bite from an infected animal, but in rare cases, saliva from infected animals can contaminate an open wound or the mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, or nose without the cat getting bitten.

Symptoms of rabies in cats

Pet MD.com explains that the symptoms of rabies in cats may begin gradually. It’s not always easy to see the symptoms for the first few days. Some cats are more lethargic in the first few days after the onset with a fever and decreased appetite. The signs get worse with weakness or paralysis starting at the legs. Cats experience difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, seizures, and problems swallowing. They experience behavioral changes including aggression, depression, and eventually coma. There are two types of rabies. One is paralytic and the other is furious. Either or both symptoms can occur in cats. They may foam at the mouth and attack other animals and humans. Your cat may cease affectionate behavior, isolate themselves, and become vicious.

How is rabies in cats diagnosed?

The only way to tell if a cat is diagnosed with rabies is to have the body of a deceased infected animal examined. Hills pet reports that the brain must be dissected and subjected to antibody testing to know for certain. It’s difficult to diagnose rabies any other way.

What to do if you think your cat has been exposed

If you suspect that your cat has been exposed to rabies, it’s essential to call your animal healthcare provider immediately. Some vets may suggest that the cat receive a booster shot of the rabies vaccine to prevent the virus from taking hold in his system. You will need to isolate your cat from other animals and humans, keeping him in quarantine while you watch to see if symptoms appear. If your cat is attacked by any animal that you suspect may be rabid, you need to call the vet immediately for advisement.

What to do if your cat is acting abnormally

It’s essential that you protect yourself and do not approach your pet before contacting the vet. Cats that show signs of rabies are already past the point of help in most cases. It’s wise to call animal control to have professionals come to provide you with recommendations. They can advise you on the best steps to take, and help to secure the animal without subjecting any humans to potential rabies infection.

How do you prevent rabies infections in cats?

Once an animal has been infected with rabies, there is no cure to treat them. Most animals die within ten days. There are several ways to prevent rabies infections in cats. Take your cat to a licensed veterinarian to receive a rabies vaccine. It is a simple injection that protects your cat from infection. Responsible cat owners will ensure that all animals under their care receive their initial rabies vaccinations and recommended boosters to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. Cats are notorious for making a break for the door every time it opens. They’re curious animals who like to go outside and explore the great outdoors. It can be difficult to keep your cat in the house if he wants to go outside, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent unvaccinated cats from getting rabies. Some cat owners go so far as to take their cats outside on a leash. It’s essential to keep kittens too young to receive the vaccine from becoming exposed to rabies.

Is rabies always fatal?

Rabies is fatal almost one hundred percent of the time. An animal could rarely survive the disease. Any survivors would be severely disabled by the ravages to the brain and central nervous system with medical experts advising that there is no hope for long-term management or recovery. Most vets recommend humane euthanization for pets exhibiting severe symptoms of rabies. It’s impossible to be sure if a cat has rabies or another disease until after death. It’s only then that pathologists can test the brain for the rabies virus.

How effective is the rabies vaccine for cats?

The Center for Disease Control advises us that vaccinated cats stand an extremely slight chance of getting the rabies virus. It is worth noting that no vaccine is one hundred percent effective, but it reduces the odds dramatically. Daily Paws explains that kittens may be vaccinated for rabies as early as 12 to 16 weeks of age. All animals in your care should receive booster shots a year later. Some states require pet owners to get annual booster shots for their dogs and cats.

What kinds of rabies shot options exist?

Two options are available for rabies vaccinations. You can get your cat a 1-year shot or a 3-year shot. Both kinds effectively prevent rabies infections. Cats that come into contact with rabid animals are frequently given an extra rabies booster shot even when fully vaccinated. It inhibits the virus from taking hold in their nervous systems. The legal requirements for rabies shots vary from state to state. If you have questions, you should contact your veterinarian or your local health department for more information.

Costs for rabies vaccination

Some pet owners opt to vaccinate their animals at home. It’s not possible to administer this vaccination on your own. You’re required to have rabies vaccinations administered by animal healthcare professionals. You can either go to a veterinary clinic or an animal shelter that provides low-cost vaccinations. The average cost is from $15 to $35. Some clinics also charge an additional fee for examination and facility use. If you’re low-income and cannot afford the cost, it’s wise to contact a low-cost vaccination clinic or animal shelter for more affordable options.

Are there side effects from rabies vaccines?

A common question asked about the rabies vaccine is regarding side effects. Another is about its safety for cats. The rabies vaccine has undergone years of study and development. It is approved to be safe for cats. Like any other vaccine, the rabies shot simulates an immune response from the body to protect from viruses. The most common side effects of the rabies vaccine for cats are a mild fever, lethargy, and a decrease in appetite. The cat may have some swelling or soreness at the injection site. Some cats show no sign of side effects. Cats that do experience side effects generally resolve within a day or two. There is always the possibility that a cat or other mammal will experience an allergic reaction to the rabies vaccine. Watch for hives, problems breathing, vomiting, or facial swelling. Allergic reactions require immediate medical care. They are rare but possible. An even rarer reaction can occur in cats at the site of injection. Tumors may form years later, turning into cancerous growths. It doesn’t happen often, yet incidences of the condition appear in veterinary records.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

The benefits of the rabies vaccines far outweigh the consequence of avoiding vaccination. It is illegal not to get your pets immunized in most states in the USA. The risk of side effects or adverse reactions is minimal. Animals infected with rabies face suffering and certain death. It’s necessary to put any hesitation or feelings of uncertainty aside and get your pets vaccinated for rabies, and keep them up on their booster shots.

Final thoughts

Rabies is an insidious disease that can affect animals and humans. The bite from an infected animal is the most common way the disease is transmitted. It is a fatal disease that is difficult to diagnose. The only thing that vets can do is vaccinate a cat exposed to rabies and quarantine them, watching to see if symptoms develop. It’s not possible to accurately diagnose rabies in a living animal as the only way to know with certainty is to dissect the brain and run a specific test. Most vets advise humane euthanization for cats showing symptoms of rabies as the onset of symptoms means that the condition is already too far advanced. Vaccinated pets can become infected with rabies, but the odds are slim as the vaccinations are highly effective in preventing rabies. The best course of action is keeping your cat indoors, monitoring his whereabouts, and getting him vaccinated for rabies. When you follow this routine, chances of him getting the disease are minimal. It’s a vicious disease that has no known cures. It’s deadly for animals and humans. Most states require all dog and cat owners to get their animals vaccinated and keep up on necessary boosters to lessen and eventually eliminate the disease.

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