Rabies is a scary illness. It conjures up images of foaming mouths, bared teeth and crazed animals. The fact that our cuddly companion can transform from best friend to an aggressive mass of teeth and claws is terrifying.
Like zombies, infected animals become different and scary creatures that can transmit their disease with just one bite. Rabies preys on the same fear that zombie movies do, the mindless violence of those we once knew.
And the fact is that the responsibility to stop it falls on us as owners. We all know the sad fate of Old Yeller. Luckily there are ways to prevent rabies with vaccinations and maybe it isn’t the rampant epidemic we fear it to be.
Only a licensed veterinarian is allowed to give cats their rabies shot. If the stress of a visit to the vet is too much for your cat, consider asking the vet to make a house call or recommend some sedatives (for the cat).
Can I Give My Cat a Rabies Shot? Answer: No.
It is not possible for the cat owners themselves to give their pets rabies injections at home. The vaccination can be administered to kittens above 4 months old and is effective for one year. The shots that follow are valid for three years. The vaccination builds up the natural immunity of the kitten and is given in a series as a precaution in case its immune system is weak.
What is Rabies Exactly?
Rabies is a virus that causes an inflammatory infection that affects the central nervous system. All mammals are susceptible to rabies, but it is most common among wildlife. The virus is contained in the saliva of infected animals, which is why it is most frequently transmitted by a bite. It can also be transmitted when the saliva comes into contact with skin, eyes, nose, mouth, or open wounds. This is especially dangerous to cats since they lick themselves clean, thus taking any infected saliva from their fur into their mouth.
There are two types of rabies: paralytic and furious. Paralytic rabies is characterized by loss of coordination and paralysis. Furious rabies is the one many of us picture when thinking of rabies and is characterized by aggression and violent attacks. It is a fast-paced virus, therefore if your cat demonstrates any signs of rabies contact a veterinarian immediately even if they have received their vaccinations. In cases where animals have not been vaccinated rabies is always fatal. If any humans have been in contact with the cat’s saliva advise them to contact a doctor immediately for treatment.
Indoor Cats Versus Outdoor Cats
Depending on the country or state in which you live, you cat may be required to have their rabies vaccination. Nevertheless some areas do not require the vaccination. If you have an indoor cat, it is unlikely they will ever come in contact with the rabies virus, so it may not be necessary to give them rabies shots at all. The only other mammals indoor cats come into contact with are usually humans.
If you have problems with bats or rodents in the house, however, it might be a good idea to have your cat vaccinated. Outdoor cats come into contact with all kinds of animals and it is advisable to always ensure they are vaccinated against rabies even in countries and states where it is not required.
Side Effects and Risks
Vaccination are still serious medical procedures and should be handled with care. To be effective, vaccines require working immune systems, so if your cat is in a weak physical state do not administer the shot. In some cases cats can be allergic to the rabies shot and even in places where it is required by law they can receive a special exemption. Finally the most serious risk associated with the rabies shot is the danger of fibrosarcomas, a type of malignant cancer, arising at the spot of injection. Vaccine particles have been found within the cancer mass, which arises at the place of the injection.
Balance the Needs
You cannot give your cat a rabies shot yourself, but a licensed veterinarian can do it for you, should the need arise. Humane organizations and animals shelters might even have reduced rates on the vaccination. Rabies is a fast-moving and fatal virus, but vaccinating your cat is a serious medical procedure and may not always be necessary.
If the risks of your cat coming in contact with the rabies virus are negligible because it is permanently indoors and it is not required by law, consider carefully whether a rabies vaccination is necessary.