Feline Rabies Symptoms

A feline with rabies can infect cats, dogs and humans, among other animals. The virus is carried in the saliva of infected animals and transmitted through the bite. Because of the health risk to humans, rabies vaccinations are required by law in the United States.

Risks of Rabies

Rabies is a dangerous viral illness that is contagious to dogs, cats and humans and is almost always deadly. While human cases of rabies are rare in the United States, veterinarians and those who work with wildlife may be at risk for contracting the illness. Because cats contract rabies more often than dogs, you should be aware of the symptoms of feline rabies. Vaccinate your cat against rabies for his own protection, as well as that of yourself and your family.

Symptoms of Feline Rabies

Once your cat has been exposed to the rabies virus, he may experience an incubation period lasting from two to six weeks. After the incubation period ends, he may progress through one or more stage of the disease, as follows:

  • The prodromal phase is characterized by apprehension, nervousness, anxiety, a desire for solitude and a fever. Personality changes occur during this phase of the illness. Friendly animals may suddenly become aggressive; cats who are normally hostile may become more friendly. This phase lasts between one and two days.
  • The furious phase is the second phase of rabies infection. Cats in the furious phase of rabies infection may become sensitive to lights and noise; they may become restless and seem irritable or vicious.
  • As the furious phase progresses the cat may become disoriented; finally, he will experience seizures and death.
  • The paralytic phase may occur after either of the first two phases. This phase usually develops two to four days after symptoms begin. The paralytic phase acts upon the nerves of the neck and throat, causing paralysis; symptoms include excessive drooling, labored breathing, dropped jaw, respiratory failure and death.

Diagnosing Rabies Infection

Currently, the only way to make an accurate diagnosis of feline rabies is to examine the brain itself under a microscope. There is no cure for feline rabies, and it is fatal.

Preventing Feline Rabies

Cats are at high risk for rabies infection, due to their tendency to roam much further from home than dogs do, and their increased exposure to wild animals. While rabies is normally transmitted through bite wounds received from infected animals, cats can also catch it if the virus finds its way into an open wound or if they eat an animal that was infected with rabies. Rabies is deadly, and contagious to dogs and humans.

Fortunately, rabies infection can be prevented by vaccine. In fact, because of the risk to humans, rabies vaccinations are required by law in the United States. Vaccinate kittens against rabies beginning at six to eight weeks of age. Booster shots should be given at three, six and twelve months of age; additional vaccinations will need to be administered every one to three years.