Rabies affects the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals such as cats. The cat may contract different diseases such as upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, chronic kidney failure, feline distemper, diabetes, vomiting, conjunctivitis, cat flu, ear mites, feline stress, and rabies. Although rabies is rarely seen in cats, knowing the symptoms of cat rabies is very important for owners in order to seek preventive measures.
Transmission of Rabies
This disease is transmitted by a bite of the infected animal. In a few rare cases, it may be transmitted by aerosol or transplacental infection and sometimes through the ingestion of a carrier animal. This virus is present abundantly in the saliva of the affected animal. It cannot survive for long outside the body of the host.
Signs and Symptoms
In most cases, the virus spreads through nerves towards the brain. As this virus is slow moving, the average incubation time from exposure to infection to involvement of central nervous system is about 2-6 weeks in cats. After reaching the brain, the virus moves to the salivary glands. When it reaches the brain, the infected cat may show three or any of three different phases which are the prodromal phase, the furious phase, and the paralytic or dumb phase.
- The prodromal phase generally lasts for 1-2 days in cats and they may develop fever spikes and erratic behavior. You may notice a significant change in the cat's temperament. An active cat may become shy or nervous and a calm cat may become agitated. Other symptoms of cat rabies in this phase include excessive drooling, dilated pupils, and snapping at imaginary objects.
- After 2-3 days, cats are most likely to develop the second stage, namely the furious phase. During this excitatory phase, an exaggerated response to any stimulus can be observed. There may be strange, abnormal changes in the cat's appetite and it may start eating and swallowing stones, sticks, and other objects. The cat may wander aimlessly, may bite itself, and may have a voice change. The cat may have an aggressive, violent behavior towards others, including its owner.
- Sometimes, the cat may show the third stage, the paralytic or dumb phase. During this phase, the cat may get extremely depressed. You may see your cat with a gaping open mouth and protruded tongue. Progressive paralysis may result in paralysis of the entire body. The cat may become weaker and there may be respiratory failure. This phase is followed by death.
When you notice the symptoms of cat rabies, you should immediately take your cat to the veterinarian. The diagnostic methods for rabies in cats include clinical signs and history, determination of Negri bodies in the impression smear of the brain, histopathology of the central nervous system, biological test by intracerebrally inoculating the suspected brain material into mice in order to reproduce this disease, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on corneal impressions, skin biopsy, and saliva testing.
Prevention and Control
As there is no right treatment for cat rabies, it is important to think about the prevention and control of this disease. It is recommended to administer two doses of rabies-killing vaccine intramuscularly with a one-month interval when the cat is 8-10 weeks old. It should be revaccinated every year. The exposed cat can be treated with serum and vaccine. You should thoroughly wash the wound with plenty of water and soap. 6 doses (1 ml each) of intramuscular immunoglobulin or anti-rabies serum are recommended by WHO, raised in equines on 0,3,7,14,28, and 90 days after the exposure.
It is very important to take good care of beloved pet cat so that it remains comfortable and healthy. If you notice any of the symptoms of cat rabies, immediately opt for medical treatment in order to save the life of your cat.