'An infectious, highly fatal viral disease of warm blooded animals that attacks the central nervous system; symptoms include excitement, aggressiveness, and dementia, followed by paralysis and death.' Dictionary.com: Medical Dictionary
'A usually fatal infectious disease of warm-blooded animals caused by a virus of the genus Lyssavirus that causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. It is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal, such as a dog or bat and can be prevented in humans by a vaccine.'
Dictionary.com: Science Dictionary
'An infectious disease of dogs, cats and other animals, transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected animal and usually fatal if prophylactic treatment is not administered: caused by an RNA virus of the rhabdovirus group; hydrophobia.' Dictionary. com
I decided to write on rabies after reading a disturbing article in the local newspaper. A stray pregnant cat was diagnosed with rabies. This particular feline was dropped off, which I find inexcusable on many levels. The cat obviously wasn't vaccinated or altered and subsequently abandoned. Whoever owned this cat put himself/herself, the animal, and all animals and humans the poor cat came in contact with at risk.
Currently, diagnosing rabies in animals is a fairly grisly process. The animal is euthanized, its head removed and sent to a lab for the brain tissue to be studied. One new testing technique uses blood and skin samples, but is not routinely used as of yet.
Incubation time for rabies in cats is two to six weeks. The virus spreads from the bite through the nerves to the brain. After the virus enters the brain it travels to the salivary glands where it can be transmitted through bites. After the virus reaches the brain it will go through any or all of the following stages.
In the prodromal stage, the animal exhibits nervous, anxious behavior and may run a fever. This phase lasts one to two days.
In the furious stage, the animal becomes restless, irritable and vicious.It will have seizures and eventually die.
The parayltic stage may occur after either of the above stages. The animal begins to salivate because it can't swallow. Other symptoms include labored breathing, choking sounds and a dropped jaw. This stage results in respiratory failure and death.
Prevention is simple, vaccinate your animal. If you don't feel you can afford a vet visit, vaccinations are usually available at your local animal shelter at an affordable price. If your local shelter doesn't offer this service, contact your local rescue and ask for assistance or the direction of a low cost clinic.
Vaccinate your senior cats. I have a seventeen year old house cat and given her age I didn't feel the need to put her through it since she wouldn't be exposed to the virus. I chatted with my vet tech about it and quickly changed my mind. She told me that many owners feel the same, but as cats age they get irritable and if a human is bitten by an animal that hasn't had its rabies vaccine its at great risk of being put down.
When a human is bitten by an animal that hasn't had a rabies shot, the animal is either immediately euthanized or placed in strict isolation for six weeks.
In summary, any warm blooded animal including man, can contract rabies. So please, for the well being of yourself and your pet, vaccinate.