Rabies – What You Need To Know

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus found in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to pets and humans by bites, or possibly by contamination of an open cut. Treatment of an infected person as critical. Untreated, rabies causes a painful death.

Most animals can be infected by the virus and can transmit the disease to man. Infected bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, dogs or cats provide the greatest risk to humans. Rabies may also spread through exposure to infected domestic farm animals, groundhogs , weasels and other wild carnivores. Squirrels, rodents and rabbits are seldom infected.

How Can You Prevent Rabies?
  • Have your pets vaccinated against rabies. Any pets which come in contact with wild animals are at risk. Many local health departments conduct public vaccination clinics for dogs and cats. Your veterinarian can also vaccinate your pet against rabies. During recent years, confirmed cases of rabies in cats have exceeded the reported cases in dogs in some parts of the United States making vaccination and booster shots critical to your health and that of your pets.
  • If your cat or dog has been bitten or attacked by a wild animal or has bites or scratches of unknown origin, call your local health department or animal control officer to report the incident.
  • If your cat or dog has bitten a person, call your local health department or animal control officer to report the incident.
  • If your cat or dog is sick, seek the advice of your veterinarian.
  • Protect your pets from stray or wild animals. Keep your pets from running loose.
  • Report stray animals to your local health department so an animal control officer can investigate. Handling stray cats or dogs can be dangerous.
  • Do not feed or handle wild animals especially those that appear aggressive or sick. Never keep a wild animal as a pet.
  • A wild animal such as a bat, raccoon, fox, skunk, or groundhog which has bitten a person or domestic animal should be sacrificed immediately. Its head (or in the case of a bat, the entire bat) should be submitted to your state or county testing laboratory for examination. Rabies prophylaxis vaccinations may depend on your physician along with laboratory results.
Rabies – What To Do If Bitten
  • If you are bitten…. 
    ….by a wild animal: an animal control officer should sacrifice the animal. All biting wild animals should be tested for rabies as soon as possible.
    ….by a cat or dog: obtain information about the pet animal. Include a description of the animal and licensing number or identification, owner’s name, address and telephone number and the rabies vaccination status whenever available.
  • Immediately cleanse the wound thoroughly with soapy water.
  • Get medical attention. Go to your family doctor or nearest emergency room. DO NOT DELAY CALLING. YOU MAY NEED TREATMENT.
  • Report all bites to your local health department or animal control agency.
Self Defense Against Rabies

Discourage wildlife. Minimize your chance of exposing humans and pets to rabies. There is a human rabies vaccine available for preexposure and a globulin treatment with vaccination for postexposure prophylaxis. However, prevention is of major importance. Start by reducing human and pet contact with wild animals. If wild animals visit your property frequently, they are probably looking for food and shelter.

Take Away the Welcome Mat
  • Check your house and property. Eliminate sites that can be used by animals for sleeping or raising young.
  • Cap all chimneys
  • Plug all holes in roofs, eaves, or sides of buildings
  • Block any means of entry to foundations, porches and steps.
  • Trim tree limbs that extend to or over your roof.
  • Provide bright exterior lighting to discourage nocturnal animals.
  • Encourage your neighbors to do the same, so the whole neighborhood is unfriendly to wildlife.
Take Away the Place Mat
  • Examine your buildings and yard. Remove all souces of FOOD.
  • Use garbage cans with animal-proof lids.
  • Keep garbage cans in the garage or shed.
  • Don’t feed pets outside.
  • If you must feed pets outside, remove any uneaten food at once.
  • Remember gardens attract wildlife such as raccoons. Consider ways to make your garden less appealing such as low voltage electric fence.
Too Late — They’re Here!

What to do if THEY are already in residence?

  • If they’re already raising young, it’s best to wait for the young to leave the den.
  • When you’re sure that there are no young or that the young ones are gone, watch the entrance at dusk and block it up after the animals leave for the night.
  • If you can’t watch the hole, mount a flap of wood or heavy gauge wire on a hinge over the hole so that the animal can push it out to leave, but can’t push it back in to re-enter.
  • Arrange a bright light so it shines into the den during the day, or place a loud playing radio there all day to discourage an animal from sleeping.
  • If the animal persists in remaining, call your local animal control officer.
  • Report any stray domestic or wild animals behaving strangely to your local animal control officer.

Compiled with the assistance of the Consumer Health Division, New Jersey Department of Health and the State of California Veterinary Public Health Department.

Please Note: CFA provides the feline health information on this site as a service to the public. Diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions should always be in consultation with one’s own veterinarian. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, Inc. disclaims all warranties and liability related to the veterinary advice and information provided on this site.