Rabies is a terrible viral disease that attacks the central nervous system and is close to 100 percent fatal once symptoms appear. According to the CDC, rabies in cats is on the rise, and cats are now more likely than dogs to be reported rabid in the United States. The rabies virus progresses quickly, and if your cat is ever bitten or scratched by a wild animal or a dog or cat that you don't think has been vaccinated against rabies, you should seek veterinary attention immediately.
The symptoms of cat rabies can vary and take months to appear. There are three stages of rabies -- the prodromal, the furious, and the paralytic -- each with different symptoms. A cat may go through one stage only or all three. In most cases, there will be a combination of physical and behavioral symptoms.
#1 Prodromal Symptoms
During the first stage of rabies -- known as the prodromal stage -- the cat may exhibit changes in temperament. Active cats may become nervous, withdrawn, and lethargic and mellow cats may become agitated, aggressive, and increase their vocalization.
#2 Furious Symptoms
If a cat enters the furious stage of rabies (most do), you will see extreme irritability, aggression, and viciousness. Cats with this form of rabies are easily provoked and will not hesitate to attack, making them very dangerous to the people and animals living in your home. As this form of rabies progresses, cats will become disoriented and often have seizures that result in death.
#3 Paralytic Symptoms
The paralytic stage of rabies is often referred to as “dumb rabies.” A cat can enter this stage after the prodromal stage or the furious stage. Cats with this form of rabies experience paralysis of the throat and mouth muscles, resulting in excessive drooling due an inability to swallow saliva. Your cat may also appear slack-jawed and have difficulty breathing. Many cats who develop this form of rabies succumb to respiratory failure.
Fortunately, this often deadly disease is preventable. Cats should receive their first rabies vaccination at around three months of age and then regular boosters according to a schedule set by your veterinarian. The rabies vaccine is not only a good idea, most state laws also require it. Take a look at this chart of rabies laws by state.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.