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Rabies is one of the oldest known diseases infecting both humans and animals. Although the diseases are mostly identified with dogs, it does not leave cats from its grip. Out of all viral infections that afflict cats, rabies is perhaps the deadliest as it affects the central nervous system of cats. The virus infects, replicates and survives within the animal's body until it finally reaches the brain, when symptoms start to show. The virus is transmitted through salivary contact, entering through open wounds, which means cats can get it by means of bite from another infected cat.
What are the symptoms of rabies in cats?
To treat rabies in cats, you should understand the typical symptoms of the disease. Symptoms of rabies in cats appear in stages recognized by different behaviors. The worse part is the contagiousness of the disease; it can spread easily from animal to animal or animal to humans. The following symptoms will help you identify the disease and take actions immediately:
- Stage One: Prodromal phase This phase lasts for one to two days, and includes the following symptoms:• Erratic behavior• Fever• Mood changes• Excessive salivating• Pupil dilation• Fly biting• Solitary behavior• Appetite loss• Itching in wound
- Stage two: Furious Phase Beginning on the second or third day, the second stage makes the cat more erratic than before. It may start eating inedible objects like sticks or stones. Other symptoms include the following:• Loitering around• Change in the sound of the cat's voice• Violent or aggressive behavior• Irritability• Disorientation and seizures• Loss of muscle coordination
- Stage 3: Paralytic Stage Also called the dumb face, this stage makes the cat unresponsive and depressed. Other symptoms include the following:• Protruding tongue and open mouth• Weakness• Foaming• Paralysis• Difficulty in breathing• Coma or death
Diagnosis of Rabies in Cats
If your cat has been bitten by an other cat that is suspected to carry the virus, but your cat does not show the typical symptoms of rabies, then it is quarantined for a period of 10 days and given anti-rabies injections. However, if your cat starts showing symptoms, then veterinarian assistance is needed for a faster treatment. The best way to tell if your cat is infected with the virus is by examining its brain. In severe cases, the cat is euthanized to prevent the disease from spreading to humans or other animals.
Vaccination for rabies
Vaccination of cats with rabies vaccines can prevent it from countering the disease. The vaccine is usually given when your cat is nearing three months of age. However, a regular vaccination schedule hereafter is needed to keep the disease at bay.
3 Common Symptoms of Cat Rabies
3 Heart-Breaking Signs of Rabies in Cats (Prevention Tips)
Can cats have rabies and can the disease get transmitted to humans? The answer to both those questions is a resounding yes. 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.
Cats and Rabies (All it Takes is a Small Scratch)
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.
Stages of Cat Rabies Symptoms
The symptoms of rabies in cats can vary and they often take months to be apparent. Rabies symptoms in cats can be categorized into three stages, the prodromal, the furious, and the paralytic. Each stage is associated with unique sets of symptoms. Cats with rabies 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
Prodromal is the first stage of rabies in cats. At this stage, the cat may exhibit changes in temperament. Active cats can become nervous, withdrawn, and lethargic. Cats with mellow demeanor may become agitated, aggressive, and vocal.
Symptoms: Change in demeanor, increased aggression, sudden unnatural shyness, or constant state of agitation.
#2 Furious Symptoms
Known as ‘furious stage’, this is the second stage of feline rabies. If a cat enters this stage symptoms it becomes highly irritable and dangerously aggressive. Cats in the furious stage of rabies are easily provoked and they often do not hesitate to attack. Some cats experience muscular spasms in throat and mouth muscles. This results in excessive drooling induced by difficulty in swallowing saliva. Some cats experience slack-jaw and face severe difficulty in breathing. As this form of rabies progresses, cats might experience disorientation and have seizures that result in death.
Symptoms:Unnaturally high aggressive state of mind and drooling.
#3 Paralytic Symptoms
Like its name suggests, paralytic stage of rabies is marked by a typical comatose state in cats. Some cats can bypass the furious stage and directly enter this stage. Most cats succumb to respiratory failure.
Symptoms:Paralysis culminating in death.
Fortunately, this 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 more than just a good idea as it’s mandated by most state laws. Take a look at this chart of rabies laws by state.
Two Rules of Rabies Prevention in Cats
- Never Miss a Vaccination Shot
- Keep Cats Indoors During Rabies Endemic
Frequently Asked Questions
How common is rabies in cats?
Rabies is relatively rare in cats, but it is still a serious disease that can be fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 289 cases of rabies in cats in the United States in 2019. This represents approximately 10% of all reported rabies cases in animals that year.
Can cats give you rabies?
Yes, cats can give you rabies if they are infected with the virus. Rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted through the saliva or nervous tissue of infected animals, including cats. The virus can be spread through a bite or scratch from an infected cat or if their saliva comes into contact with an open wound or mucous membrane, such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. The transmission of the virus from cats to humans is relatively rare. However, if you have been bitten or scratched by a cat, it's important to seek medical attention right away to determine if you need post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment to prevent rabies. Additionally, if you come into contact with a cat that you suspect may have rabies, do not attempt to handle or capture the animal. Instead, contact your local animal control or public health department for assistance.
How long can a cat live if it has rabies?
Unfortunately, once a cat shows symptoms of rabies, it is almost always fatal. The progression of the disease is rapid, and once symptoms appear, death usually occurs within 10 days to 2 weeks. The incubation period for rabies in cats can vary, but it typically ranges from 2 weeks to 6 months, with an average of 1-2 months. During this time, the virus replicates in the cat's body, but there may be no outward signs of illness. The initial symptoms of rabies in cats are often nonspecific and can include behavioral changes, such as restlessness, agitation, or aggression, as well as fever, weakness, and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, cats may develop neurological symptoms such as seizures, paralysis, and difficulty swallowing.
How do you know if a cat bite has rabies?
It can be difficult to tell if a cat bite has rabies simply by looking at it. Rabies is a viral disease that can be transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, including cats. If a cat bites you, it's important to seek medical attention right away to determine if post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment is necessary to prevent the development of rabies. Your healthcare provider will likely ask you about the circumstances of the bite, including if the cat was a known pet if it was behaving unusually, and if it had a current rabies vaccination. They may also evaluate the bite wound for signs of infection or tissue damage. If the cat that bit you is available, it may be tested for rabies. In some cases, the cat may need to be euthanized in order to perform the necessary testing. Testing for rabies typically involves examining brain tissue for the presence of the virus. Remember that rabies is a serious disease that can be fatal if left untreated. If you have been bitten by a cat, seek medical attention right away and follow your healthcare provider's recommendations for PEP treatment.
What are the 3 stages of rabies?
Rabies typically progresses through three stages, although not all infected individuals will experience all three stages. The prodromal stage usually lasts for 1-3 days and is characterized by nonspecific symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, and general malaise. During this stage, the virus replicates and spreads throughout the body, including the peripheral nerves and the brain. The excitation phase is a term sometimes used to describe the second stage of rabies, which is also known as the "furious stage." During this stage, infected individuals may exhibit behavioral changes, such as restlessness, agitation, and aggression, as well as hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch. The term "excitation" refers to the increased activity and agitation seen in infected individuals during this phase. In the final paralytic stage, infected individuals may experience weakness, paralysis, and difficulty breathing. Death usually occurs due to respiratory failure.
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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.