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Rabies in Cats: Signs & Symptoms

Rabies in Cats: Signs & Symptoms

Rabies is a very contagious virus that can be deadly for animals. Fortunately, there's a vaccine to safeguard your pet. Today, our Ankeny vets share the dangers of rabies in cats, the symptoms to watch for, and how you can help protect your feline friend.

Rabies in Cats: How serious is this virus?

Rabies in cats is a very serious virus. It can be deadly but can also be prevented. This disease affects a cat's nervous system and spreads through bites from infected animals. Your cat will begin to show symptoms once the virus has reached their brain and will likely die within 7 days.

How is rabies transmitted between cats and other animals?

Rabies is a virus that can be spread by animals, especially raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks in the U.S., but any animal can get it. It's most common in places with lots of stray cats and dogs.

The virus is in an infected animal's saliva, and you can catch it if their saliva touches an open wound or your gums. If your cat hangs out with wild animals, there's a higher chance it could get rabies.

Sadly, people can also get rabies from infected animals like your cat. You might get infected if the saliva gets on your broken skin or in your mouth. Being scratched is unlikely to give you rabies, but it's very rare.

If you think you've been near an infected animal, talk to your doctor. They can give you a rabies vaccine to stop the virus from spreading in your body.

Is rabies a common virus among cats?

The rabies vaccination is mandatory by law in most states, and so this virus is largely kept under control. Even though the risk is lower at this time, it is still possible, so precautions should always be taken. Most often, cats get rabies after being bitten by a wild animal. Even if you have an indoor cat, they are still at risk for rabies because infected animals, such as mice, can enter your home and spread the condition to your cat. If you believe another animal has bitten your kitty, we recommend calling your vet to make sure your feline friend hasn't been exposed to the rabies virus, even if they are vaccinated.

Rabies Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of rabies in cats typically fall in with the three stages that an animal goes through as they are infected. These stages are:

Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid cat will typically exhibit changes in their behavior that differ from their usual personality. If your kitty is usually shy, they could become more outgoing, and vice versa. If you see any behavioral abnormalities in your cat after they have obtained an unknown bite, keep them away from any other pets and family members, and call your vet immediately.

Furious stage - This stage is the most dangerous because it makes your pet nervous and even vicious. They might cry out excessively, experience seizures, and stop eating. The virus has gotten to the stage where it has begun attacking the nervous system, and it prevents your cat from being able to swallow, leading to the classic symptom of excessive drooling, known as "foaming at the mouth."

Paralytic stage - This is the final stage in which a rabid cat will go into a coma and won't be able to breathe. Unfortunately, this is the stage where pets usually pass away. This often takes place about seven days after symptoms first appear, with death usually happening after about 3 days. 

When do the initial symptoms of rabies appear?

If your cat has rabies, they might not show any signs at first. Usually, it takes about 3 to 8 weeks, but it can be as short as 10 days or as long as a year for symptoms to appear,

The speed at which symptoms appear depends entirely on the infection site. A bite that is closer to the spine or brain will develop much faster than others, and it also depends on the severity of the bite.

Can rabies in cats be treated or cured?

Unfortunately, there's no cure for rabies right now. If your cat gets bitten by an animal with rabies but has up-to-date vaccinations, show the vaccination records to your vet. If someone comes into contact with your cat's saliva or gets bitten, they should see a doctor right away. Rabies is deadly for unvaccinated animals, usually causing death within 7 to 10 days of the first symptoms.

You must report your cat's rabies to the health department when it's confirmed. According to local and state rules, an unvaccinated pet exposed to rabies must be quarantined for up to six months. A vaccinated animal that bites or scratches a person should also be quarantined and watched for 10 days.

To protect your family and other pets and prevent your cat from suffering, consider euthanizing them when rabies is diagnosed. If your cat suddenly dies, and rabies is suspected, your vet might examine the cat's brain. Testing the brain is the only way to confirm rabies.

To keep your cat safe from rabies, make sure they get the right vaccinations. Your vet will let you know if your cat needs any routine shots. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your cat has come into contact with the saliva of a wild or rabid animal, you should isolate them and contact our Ankeny vets right away.

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