Do cats have rabies?

Rabies is a deadly disease. Although this viral infection is most commonly associated with dogs, rabies in cats also occurs. Once clinical symptoms of infection has surfaced nothing much can be done to the pet as rabies cannot be cured. In most cases, the cat has to be humanely killed to prevent the transmission of the virus not only to other animals but also to humans.

Just as rabies in dogs, rabies in cats is caused by the deadly rabies virus. Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that affects the central nervous system of warm blooded animals. Rabies was totally controlled in the British Isles; in Australia, in New Zealand but this fatal disease continue to prevail in other parts of the world. In countries where there are intensive rabies vaccination programs for household pets, wild animals like foxes, skunks, coyotes and bats are the common vectors of the disease.

An infected or a rabid animal would carry the virus in its saliva. Rabies is generally transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Outdoor cats can fight with infected cats, dogs and other wild animals. The virus can be transmitted when an infected animal bites the cat. A cat does not need to be bitten by a rabid animal as the virus can be transmitted if the saliva of rabies infected animal gets into an open wound or gets in contact with mucus membranes of the eyes or mouth. Cats are predators and another way by which a cat can get infected is by hunting and eating a rabid prey.

Once the cat is bitten or once the infected saliva gets into an open wound, the virus will enter the bloodstream and travel to the nervous system through the spinal cord. The virus attacks the brain thus an infected cat would show extreme behavioral and neurological changes. After the nervous system is attacked, symptoms of infection would start to appear. The cat would go through the three phases of rabies. The first stage is the prodromal phase. The cat that continuously licks the bite site would start showing an abnormal behavior. The cat that has intermittent fever would lose its appetite and be lethargic. This will be followed by the furious phase where the cat will become hyperactive and restless. This phase is also known as the mad dog stage because an infected animal would be aggressive and would try to bite humans, animals and objects. The cat would no longer recognize the owners. The last and fatal stage is the paralytic phase. The cat would foam at the mouth. The disease would affect the peripheral nervous system thus the cat would have seizures and paralysis. Paralysis would prevent the cat from swallowing. Hydrophobia and excessive drooling are signs of the cats looming death. This will be followed by coma and death.

Rabies is a dreaded disease because the causative virus can also infect humans. Moreover, a definite diagnosis requires the examination of the brain under a microscope. This means that diagnosis will be done only when the cat is already dead. Postexposure prophylaxis treatment would no longer be viable once the cat has started manifesting clinical symptoms. This is the reason why rabies is considered to be an incurable disease. As an act of kindness, a cat that was infected by the virus is commonly euthanized. Feline rabies can be prevented by having the cat vaccinated. At the age of three months, the cat should receive its first vaccination for the disease. This will be followed when the cat turns one year old and a booster shot that will be effective for five years will be given when the cat is two years old.