Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cats and Bats!

“Louise, you were right to be concerned when your cats killed a bat.  Fortunately, our records show Calico, Blackie, and Daisy are current on their rabies vaccinations.  If they were bitten by the bat or even if they ate it they should be protected”.
            Rabies in cats is a greater problem in the country than rabies in dogs.  More people are bitten by rapid cats than by rapid dogs perhaps because they tend to befriend and cuddle small, warm, soft animals, i.e. cats and kittens. 
            Although it has not been shown that rabies is spread among cats by biting each other it is well known they can contract rabies from bat and skunk bites.  Both bats and skunks are reservoirs for the infection in the wild.  People can also be infected with rabies by bats and skunks and for that reason should leave these animals alone, for when infected they can survive for long periods with the virus in their tissues and can infect other animals or people months after they themselves have been infected.
            I have worked with rabid animals, but not in the Imperial Valley.  Early in the disease, affected animals seem to have difficulty seeing well or may be a little uncoordinated when moving.  They behave apprehensively as if realizing something is wrong that they do not understand and not knowing what to do, they may seek human comfort and become inordinately affectionate.  As the disease progresses their alarm mounts, they become fearful and may want to hide.  Then, within hours or days affected animals become very depressed or vicious, attacking objects, humans, or animals that move.
            To avoid exposure to rabies people should be skeptical of any abrupt change of attitude in their pets.  As a rule stray animals should be left alone.  Children should be especially careful and avoid them.  If one thinks he or she has an animal with rabies, they can call their veterinarian for advice.
            Vaccination against rabies is the best prevention, although annual vaccination of dogs is required by law, vaccination of cats is even more advisable.