It was not long ago in history when cats were considered disease-carrying pests. Thanks to vaccines, they are now just pests. Well, to non-cat lovers that is.
To the rest of us, a cat is a beloved companion and household pet. So, why do you need a rabies vaccine for cats?
Because rabies is a deadly disease that can be carried and spread by cats.
But What If Your Cat Lives Indoors Exclusively?
There is no doubt that an indoor cat will have less risk of being infected by rabies, but that is not a good reason to not have your feline friend vaccinated. All it takes is one encounter outdoors with a cat carrying the disease to be exposed.
If you think it won’t happen to your cat, consider this:
The CDC estimates that there are three times as many rabid cats as there are dogs and that alone should be enough to put your kitten on a regular cycle of vaccines.
How Is Rabies Transmitted To Cats?
All it takes is a single bite from an infected animal. The bite doesn’t have to come from another cat, either. Rabies is also carried by skunks, raccoons, foxes and bats.
The way in which the infection takes hold of a cat is through the saliva of the animal that did the biting. Once the infected saliva enters the bloodstream of the cat, it becomes infected.
Bites often occur in an altercation of some kind. However, the risk is low if a cat is scratched by an infected animal and tends to the wound during self-grooming.
As the incubation period of a rabies infection is short, symptoms should be noticeable soon after the bite has taken place.
How Does Rabies Affect A Newly Infected Cat?
Rabies is a deadly neurological disease. Depending on the bite site – the distance it is from your cat’s brain – symptoms can take as little as a week to start to show.
Stage 1 – Prodromal Symptoms
This is the first stage of a rabies infection in cats. The cat may show changes in its temperament. For example, if your cat is active, it may begin to appear withdrawn, nervous and lethargic. If you have a laid back cat, it may start to become aggressive, agitated and vocal.
Stage 2 – Furious Symptoms
The second stage of feline rabies is a lot different to the first stage as the infection takes hold. Your cat is going to be very irritable and aggressive to the point where it may attack at the slightly opportunity. Some cats suffer mouth and throat muscular spasms and results in drooling. Other cats may have breathing difficulties. Disorientation and seizures may also occur.
Stage 3 – Paralytic Symptoms
By the time your cat reaches this stage, symptoms are extremely severe. For some felines they enter into a comatose state. Respiratory failure is common and is typically the cause of death for most cats that reach this stage of rabies infection. Some cats skip the second stage completely and end up in the paralytic stage faster.
How Can You Protect Your Cat From Rabies?
The easy answer is to have your cat on a regular inoculation program. Your veterinarian can provide the guidance necessary to determine the earliest that a kitten should receive the vaccine.
What Is The Normal Rabies Shot Cycle?
Rabies shots can be administered to a kitten as early as somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks of age. Generally, vets use the age of 4 to 6 months as a window for the first shot. It is normally followed with a booster shot a year later to ensure immunity.
There are also shelters and animal rescues that will inoculate cats regardless of age as part of the pre-adoption health program. A booster shot will increase immunity for up to three years.
Following the booster shot, it has become a common practice to vaccinate for rabies every three years of the cat’s life. Indoor cats are not required to have such a strict schedule but it is still a good idea to protect indoor cats with regular inoculations anyway to keep them safe.
Local laws and statutes may dictate that your cat is required to have regular vaccinations so check to ensure that you are complying with them. Your vet should be able to provide you will further information. Booster shots should be part of your cat’s normal health program.
What If Your Cat’s Rabies Shot Is Not Up-To-Date?
Because rabies can be transmitted to humans, it is a good idea to keep your cat’s vaccination program current. If you are unable to determine the time of the last inoculation, a booster shot can be administered and it will provide your cat with the protection it needs against rabies.
The way to look at this situation is simple. If you choose to not vaccinate you kitten or cat, an unexpected rabies infection is very likely going to kill your pet. Even if your cat lives exclusively indoors, the best way to keep that pet healthy is will regular vaccinations.
What If My Cat Shows Some of The Signs of Rabies Infection?
Your cat’s survival percentage increases the quicker you are able to get it to a vet for treatment. Sadly, by the time the most obvious symptoms appear, the disease has already done damage to your pet’s nervous system.
How Many Vaccinations Will Your Cat Have?
Let’s assume you have an indoor cat. Indoor cats tend to live a fair deal longer than outdoor cats. If we said that indoor cats live an average of 15 years, and you followed a three year vaccination schedule, your cat would have had five rabies shots in its lifetime.
That is not much to ask in return for the years of enjoyment and friendship you will receive from your cat over that time.
There is nothing funny about rabies and as it is such a serious neurological disease, it should not be taken lightly by pet owners. A single bite from an infected animal is all it takes to spread the disease to an unprotected cat. This makes outdoor cats most susceptible to exposure to rabies than indoor cats.
The most effective way to keep your cat healthy and safe from contracting rabies is by having it on a regular vaccination schedule. The most common cycle is three-years and considering that your indoor cat can live to 15 years or more, you are making an investment in the friendship you have created between you and your feline friend.