HomeCatRabies in Cats: Causes, Transmission, Signs, Diagnosis, and Prevention

Rabies in Cats: Causes, Transmission, Signs, Diagnosis, and Prevention

Rabies in cats or feline rabies infection is a viral disease that is worldwide important and affects the brain and spinal cords of cats, dogs, mammals, and humans. This is considered to be associated with cats and dogs, who are more susceptible to rabies virus infection than adult animals. The disease has been described and recognized around 2300 BC.

The high concentration of Rabies virus in infected cats’ saliva poses a particular threat to humans because of their popularity as companion animal pets and their ability to penetrate the skin with their teeth. It is a fatal, acute viral infection that affects the nervous system and its causes, transmission, signs, diagnosis, and treatment prevention is crucial to know a cat owner or lovers.

Important Information on Feline Rabies

Rabies in cats is one of the most critical and public health significant disease of cats. As a cat owner, you must have some basic knowledge about the disease. It would be best if you vaccinated your kitten at the age of 12-14 weeks of age against Rabies and other associated infectious diseases. If you are vaccinated against Rabies, your kitten also needs a rabies vaccine. This information will help you to take necessary measures for a healthy cat as per your passion.

Feline Rabies Information

Causes of Rabies in Cats

Feline Rabies is caused by an RNA virus of the Rhabdoviridae family. In areas with good pet vaccination programs, wildlife tends to be the significant reservoirs and vectors, whereas, in areas with inadequate programs, domesticated animals are the primary reservoirs and vectors.

Development of Feline Rabies

The virus first replicates in the spinal ganglia from where it disseminates to the CNS and continues replication. The virus is then shifted out of the central nervous system to other body tissues through the peripheral, motor, and sensory nerves. An animal is infectious when the salivary glands are affected. An infectious virus may be shed in saliva for several days before clinical signs of illness are manifested.

Signs of the Feline Rabies

Clinical rabies infection in cats, like dogs, is divided into two general categories. These are the furious and the paralytic form.

  • The earliest stage of infection, the signs include vague neurologic and behavioral changes, irritation at the viral injection site, fever, and increased agitation lasting for only 1-2 days.
  • As the disease progresses, your cats are more likely to manifest the furious type of disease. Your affected cats become particularly aggressive towards humans as well as other animals and inanimate objects.
  • They are described as having an anxious appearance and will make malicious attempts to bite or scratch at any moving object.
  • The affected cats may run or pace continuously until they collapse.
  • By the fifth day of clinical signs, the aggressive behavior of the furious type of Rabies gives way to paralytic disease in those cats that survive this long.
  • Affected cats manifest paraparesis, incoordination, paralysis, coma, and death.
  • In contrast to dogs, cats with Rabies frequently manifest increased vocalization and change in voice pitch.

Diagnosing Rabies in Cats 

The diagnosis is based on the specific clinical signs of the disease. Direct FA testing of nervous tissue is the most common and recommended method of confirming rabies infection in dogs and cats. The proper procedure for handling specimens from suspected rabies cases has been outlined earlier.

Differential Diagnosis of Feline Rabies

  • Kittens and cats infected with and shedding Rabies may not manifest clinical signs during the early stages of infection. Any cat with unexplainable neurologic and behavioral changes should be considered suspect for Rabies.

  • Neoplasia, spinal or head trauma, and poisoning or toxicity are important differential diagnoses for feline Rabies.

Treatment for Rabies in Cats

There is no ideal treatment for Rabies in cats. If you suspect your cats have Rabies, you should keep your cats in quarantine. The zoonotic threat posed by rabies virus infection in cats justifies isolation and quarantine of cats suspected of or known to be infected. Your expert or veterinarian is required by law to notify the animal disease regulatory authorities.

Prevention and Control of Feline Rabies

Both killed virus vaccines (one-year and three-year) and a feline recombinant rabies vaccine are available for use in cats. The incidence of Rabies infection in cats is higher than it is in dogs; there are still several states and municipalities that have failed to define and enforce rabies vaccination in cats

Treatment of Rabies in Cats

The feline rabies vaccine is mandated by law; the first dose of vaccine can be given as early as three months of age. A second dose, administered one year following the date of the initial rabies vaccine, is required. Today there is considerable variation among states as to the frequency of booster vaccinations in adult cats. Vaccination intervals range from one to three years. 

Public Health Hazard of Rabies

As with dogs, any human exposed to a cat’s saliva suspect of having Rabies should be considered exposed. Treatment of a bite wound in a person caused by any domestic or feral cat, you must be treated aggressively by washing thoroughly as soon after the injury as possible. Irrigation of the wound with large quantities of a 20% aqueous soap solution or quaternary ammonium solution, e.g., benzalkonium chloride, is recommended.

Humans who receive unprovoked bite wounds from feral or free-roaming cats constitute the highest risk of exposure. In addition to local wound treatment, these individuals are justifiably treated according to standard post-exposure prophylaxis, including the administration of human rabies immunoglobulin and diploid cell vaccine.

 Final Advice on Rabies in Cats

Rabies is a highly contagious and devastating disease in cats. If the clinical symptoms are manifested, it is challenging to treat the disease. The best way of controlling and preventing the disease is pre-exposure vaccination at an early age and revaccinate yearly. It would be best if you maintain your cats safe from wild animals and street dogs. A healthy and lively cat is one of the best pet animals for houses and apartments. 


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