Do cats need rabies shots?

Rabies is known as the mad dog disease. Rabies is a viral infection of the nervous system commonly associated with dogs. However, due to extensive vaccination programs, rabies in dogs was significantly eradicated. Local ordinances in some areas specifically require dogs to have rabies shots. Unfortunately this is not so with cats. Rabies is therefore becoming more common in cats these days especially because outdoor cats tend to share the territory with the local wildlife. Vaccination is the only way to save the cat from this deadly viral disease. So do cats need rabies shots? The answer is yes!

Cat owners fear rabies not only because the virus can kill the pet but also because the virus can kill humans as well. In some areas of the world, rabies is no longer in existence. The United States, the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii were declared free from this fatal disease. In other parts of the world, the rage of rabies continues. The spread of the virus is attributed to the presence of wildlife around residential areas. Wild animals like foxes, skunks, bats, wolves as well as stray dogs and feral cats can be the vectors of the virus. Wild animals infected by the rabies virus become highly aggressive. The rabies virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is more prevalent in cats as unlike in dogs, not many states require cats to be vaccinated. This condition was compounded by the fact that cats are more incline to roam as compared to dogs. Spreading the virus among cats becomes much easier because of the large stray cat population.

Once a domestic cat is bitten by a rabid cat or by a rabid wild animal, the virus contained in the saliva will enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain through the spinal cord. The incubation period is typically between 2 to 6 weeks. The virus will attack the brain so that the cat would manifest radical neurological and behavioural changes. Once the bitten cat shows clinical symptoms of infections, saving its life will not be possible. An affected animal is typically put to sleep to save it from a very painful death. Prophylaxis treatment can save the life of the cat but this treatment must be given before the pet shows symptoms of the disease. Rabies however, is a sneaky disease. When symptoms occur, treatment would no longer be possible. Additionally, the current mode of definite diagnosis is to examine the brain under the microscope. Of course this will only be done if the cat is already dead.

Rabies shots are the only way to save the pet from this deadly disease. Without rabies shots, keeping the cat safe from being infected is virtually impossible. Rabies virus is not airborne but given the cat’s inclination to roam, an indoor cat that sees an open door would grab the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Rabies virus can be transmitted if the cat fights with other cats or with wild animals that carry the virus. Vaccinating the cats against rabies is required by law in some areas of United States. Even if vaccination is not required by law, a cat owner has to make sure that the pet receives the shots. Rabies shots are usually given when the cat is 3 months old. Another shot is given when the pet turns 1 year old. Booster shots are then given every 3 years. These rabies shots would be the cats defence against this killer disease.

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