The Reality of Rabies in Cats

Our veterinarians located throughout Grenada are discussing the impact of the highly contagious and deadly rabies virus on cats. They will cover the prevalence of the virus, its symptoms, and methods of prevention.

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a preventable virus that attacks the central nervous system of mammals. It spreads through bites from infected animals and travels along the nerves to the spinal cord and then to the brain. Once the virus reaches the brain, symptoms appear, and death typically occurs within 7 days.

How Does Rabies Spread?

Wildlife, including raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks, are the primary spreaders of rabies in the US, but any mammal can carry the virus. Rabies is commonly found in areas with high populations of unvaccinated feral cats and dogs.

The virus is transmitted through the saliva of infected animals, usually through bites or contact with open wounds or mucous membranes.

The more contact your cat has with wild animals, the higher the risk of infection. If your cat has rabies, it can spread the virus to humans and other animals in the household through contact with saliva.

While rare, it is possible to contract rabies through scratches. If you suspect exposure to the virus, seek medical attention immediately for a rabies vaccine.

How Common is Rabies in Cats?

Thanks to the mandatory rabies vaccine for household pets in most states, rabies is now uncommon in cats. However, cats are more susceptible to the virus than dogs, with 241 recorded cases in 2018.

Cats can contract rabies from bites by wild animals or infected animals entering your home. If another animal has bitten your cat, it's important to call your vet, even if they are vaccinated, to check for exposure to the virus.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Cat Rabies?

Generally, there are three recognizable stages of the rabies virus in cats, below we have listed the stages, including the signs and symptoms that accompany each stage:

Prodromal stage - In this stage, a rabid cat will typically exhibit changes in their behavior that differs 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 obtaining an unknown bite, keep them away from 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 and 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. 

How Long Will it Take for My Cat to Show Symptoms of Rabies?

Rabies exposure in cats does not immediately show signs or symptoms. The incubation period typically lasts between three to eight weeks, but it can range from 10 days to a year.

The speed at which symptoms develop varies depending on the infection site, with bites closer to the spine or brain developing faster. The severity of the bite also plays a role in the development of symptoms.

How is Rabies Treated in Cats?

Unfortunately, once symptoms of rabies appear in cats, there is no cure, and their health will rapidly decline within a few days. If your cat has received the necessary vaccinations for rabies, provide proof to your vet, and advise anyone who had contact with your pet to seek medical treatment if bitten or exposed to their saliva.

Unvaccinated animals with rabies will usually die within 7 to 10 days of initial symptoms. If your cat is diagnosed with rabies, report the case to your local health department and follow quarantine regulations.

To protect other people and pets in your home, humane euthanasia is recommended for infected pets. Brain examination is the only way to confirm a rabies diagnosis.

The best protection against rabies is to keep your cat up-to-date on vaccinations. Consult your vet to schedule an appointment for rabies and other necessary vaccinations.

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 you are concerned that a rabid animal might have bitten your cat, isolate them from all other pets and family members and contact our Grenada vets right away.