When you think about rabies, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is a dog foaming at the mouth and rabid. However, it’s not just dogs that can contract rabies; all mammals can, including humans.
However, did you know that we are at the lowest chance of contracting rabies in the United States and are safer than ever before? Yet, when people see a stray cat roaming their neighborhood, the first thing that crosses their mind is that the cat could be rabid.
While it is true that rabies is found more often in cats than dogs in the United States, vaccines have made this a rare occurrence. In fact, there were only 241 cases of rabies in cats reported by the CDC in 2018, which is the last data shared1. So, rabies in cats is extremely rare with a representation of 0.04% of cats with rabies over the total number of domestic cats in the United States in 20182. That doesn’t mean that rabies shouldn’t be something you’re on the lookout for with your cat and stray cats.
How Common Is Rabies?
While rabies used to be a real danger in the United States, there hasn’t been a case of rabies transmitted from a cat to a human in over 40 years. There have only been 34 reported cases of rabies in humans in the United States since 2003. These are only statistics from the United States; however, other countries may have more or less.
The treatment for rabies in humans is almost 100% effective.
How Do Cats Get Rabies?
Cats are more likely to contract rabies because of their curious nature and hunting instinct. Dogs don’t go looking for prey the way that cats do.
A cat can contract rabies by being bitten by another animal. In most cases, it’s a raccoon, bat, skunk, fox, or another wild animal. The more contact a cat has with wild animals, the higher its risk of catching the disease.
4 Symptoms of Rabies to Watch Out for in Cats
Even though very few cats contract rabies in the United States and rabies is pretty much unheard of, it’s still imperative to keep an eye on your cat if it ventures outside. You never know when a cat could contract rabies.
1. Behavioral Changes
Your extroverted cat may suddenly become isolated and standoffish. Cats that are usually even-tempered and sweet may suddenly become excitable and agitated.
2. Aggressive Actions
A cat that has contracted rabies may become aggressive and vicious with other animals and humans. The cat may try to attack anyone or anything that comes near it.
3. Excessive Drooling
Rabies can affect your cat’s mouth muscles, making it difficult for the cat to swallow. This causes them to drool or foam at the mouth, which is a classic sign of rabies.
4. Muscle Control Loss
The final stage of rabies will cause your cat to become paralyzed and fall into a coma. However, you should know that your cat will contract rabies long before that time. If you see these symptoms in your cat, you must get it to a vet immediately.
Can Cats Pass Rabies to Humans?
Yes, a cat with rabies can pass it on to humans. However, you have to come in direct contact with the cat’s saliva to get rabies. That means if your cat bites, licks, or drools on you, you could contract the disease; it usually takes a direct bite to contract the disease, but it’s best to be safe.
If you think there’s any chance that you’ve contracted rabies, you need to contact your doctor right away. The treatment and shots are given in the arm in today’s world, but in the past, it was a series of injections administered to the stomach. It’s nothing like that today, and the treatment is almost 100% effective at stopping rabies.
Usually, the humans who don’t survive rabies are the ones that don’t report their symptoms to their doctor until it’s too late to save them. Anytime you’re bitten by an animal, it’s best to contact your doctor.
Can Cats with Rabies Be Treated?
As we’ve previously stated, rabies in cats isn’t apparent right away, and there’s no way to test for it in a living animal. There is also no cure for rabid felines, and euthanizing them is the only option. The best thing you can do is make your cat comfortable and loved.
In most cases, wild animals are the only ones susceptible to contracting rabies because they aren’t vaccinated against it. If you vaccinate your cat and keep it from tangling with wild animals, you don’t have much to worry about. However, it’s still important to keep an eye on your feline pal, just in case.
Rabies in the United States, whether in dogs, cats, or humans, isn’t common due to vaccines for pets being widely available. In some states, it’s illegal not to get your pets vaccinated against rabies yearly.
Even though it’s not a prevalent problem in the United States anymore, it’s still important to have your pet vaccinated and keep an eye out for any symptoms. If you suspect your cat or have rabies, make sure to get to a doctor immediately.
Featured Image Credit: Nikolay Bassov, Shutterstock