Rabies is one of the most popularized pet diseases, but some pet owners still neglect vaccinations preventing rabies infection. It is important to always vaccinate your cat against rabies and other diseases, but in the event that you have an unvaccinated animal, it is also necessary to know the symptoms and the prognosis so you can get treatment and prevent your cat from becoming a hazard to other animals and humans.
How does a cat get rabies?
Rabies can occur when an unvaccinated cat is left to roam outdoors. Wild animals or stray cats or dogs could bite or scratch your cat, leaving them vulnerable to the infection. Barn cats or outdoor cats are more likely to get sick, simply because they have a higher chance of exposure to the disease. Cats are natural hunters, so they also could potentially get rabies from eating/killing another animal that is already infected, such as a squirrel or rat. If you learn of potential rabies cases in your neighborhood, it is wise to keep your cat indoors until the scare has passed. Your cat won't get rabies from a water source, the air they breathe, or the food they eat. However, if they eat food that another rabid animal has eaten, and they have left mucous on the food or dish, your cat can get the disease through their own mucous membranes -- the eyes or the nose.
How can you know if your cat is infected?
Contrary to popular belief, rabies symptoms may not immediately exhibit. Sometimes, the illness can incubate for months before any alarming symptoms begin to show. However, if you are vigilant, you can notice small changes that will help to recognize the disease early. These include:
- increased lethargy
- bouts of unexplainable violent behavior; in cats, this can be hard to pin down, because they often have mood swings
- increased meowing
- reduced appetite
- weakness in the muscles
- bouts of mania that are not typical of your cat's personality
If you notice some or all of the above symptoms, you should get help from a vet clinic as soon as possible. Unfortunately, once symptoms appear, there is no cure. The only real method of preventing the disease is through vaccination. If you have an unvaccinated pet that comes home with an open wound, scratches, or bites, take them to the vet immediately to receive a vaccination -- catching the disease before it has time to incubate is the only hope of saving your cat.
You should protect yourself from rabies infection if you suspect your cat is infected. Only handle your cat with gloves, and if you are scratched or bitten, call your doctor immediately to get prophylactic treatment.
Contact a vet to learn more about the importance of pet vaccinations.