How do cats get rabies?

Rabies is a disease that is caused by a virus. This deadly viral infection affects the central nervous system and causes a condition known as acute encephalitis which is characterized by the inflammation of the brain. This viral disease that affects warm blooded animals is spread through the bite of an infected animal. Infection is spread through contact with the saliva of an infected animal. Cats are natural hunters. Cats are also territorial animals. A cat can get infected by the virus if it hunts infected bats or if it had a skirmish with wild animals like raccoons and coyotes that are infected by the virus. Rabies has become rare in developed countries due to extensive vaccination programs. However, some cases of rabies are still seen in domestic animals. Unvaccinated dogs are the primary sources of the rabies virus. Rabies infection is in fact known as the “mad dog disease”. Cats are at risk from dog bites given these animals inclination to fight with dogs.

Rabies was generally eradicated in developed countries. For instance, rabies is totally non-existent in Hawaii. This is due to extensive vaccination programs. As mentioned, dogs are the primary casualties of this fatal infection. Surprisingly, the incidence of rabies in dogs is much lower than it is in cats. This can be due to the fact that while rabies vaccinations in dogs are mandated by the state, it is not mandatory for cats. Vaccinating the cat against rabies is the option of the cat owner. Additionally, very few dogs would be seen roaming freely especially in urban areas. This is not so with cats. Cats have the tendency to roam thus the risk that they will get bitten by rabies infected wild animals is high. Exposure to the rabies virus is lesser if the cat is an indoor pet.

The rabies virus is generally transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Aside from being bitten by a rabid animal, a cat can get rabies from coming in contact with saliva of an infected animal. Another way a cat can be exposed to the virus is by eating the brain tissue of an infected animal. Because cats are hunters that devour the carcass of the prey, the risk of exposure to the virus via this way is high. Once infected, the virus would travel to the cat’s nervous system through the peripheral nerves. Incubation period is usually 2 to 12 weeks depending on how long the virus would reach the cat’s central nervous system.

There are three stages of the rabies disease. In the prodormal stage, the cat would worry the bite site, may run a temperature and would have slow eye reflexes. But what is most noticeable is the atypical behavior. Aggression can be manifested by friendly cats and the once aggressive cat would be docile and shy. This stage will be followed by the furious stage where the infected cat would become disoriented, restless and irritable. The cat may attack objects. An indoor pet would have the inclination to roam. At this stage, the cat can seize. The next is the paralytic stage. The paralysis that starts from the bite site will move to the throat so that the cat would be drooling. At this stage, death is imminent.

There is no treatment for rabies once symptoms are shown. Rabies was eliminated but presently it has become an emerging infection. To save the pet from this fatal infection, have the cat vaccinated against rabies. Indoor cats may not really need the protection of rabies shots but it is extremely necessary if the pet is an outdoor cat.