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Rabid Indoor Cat

Posted by jessicaml (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 8, 12 at 1:44

I posted this in the Pets forum, too, but the conversations here seem more active, so it's worth a shot!

My brother has a wife, 2 children and 3 (was 4) indoor cats. They've had a couple bats in their house and shooed them outside, thinking no harm done.

However, a couple days ago, one of their cats was showing multiple signs of rabies, so they had to have it euthanized. It's head was sent off for rabies testing, and they're still waiting to hear the test results (how long does that take?). One cat should be current on rabies shots (shelter adoptee, I think in the last 6 months), but I'm pretty sure the other two aren't current on vaccinations. They didn't worry about it since the cats were 'indoor only' cats.

First they were told they all needed rabies shots, but when they went to get them the doctor told them they didn't need rabies shots (presumably until the test results come back? No one recalls being bitten, but cats routinely bite and scratch in play, so it's hard to remember).

Has anyone been through this to know what happens if the cat tests positive for rabies? The family is already traumatized about losing their furry family member; I can't imagine the devastation if they have to euthanize the others, too. Also, they were told rabies shots cost $5000 (each, I believe), and I don't think insurance from SIL's new job will provide coverage yet. Does this sound right? I'm hoping there's a misunderstanding somewhere, or a public service option of some sort.

Also, how do you determine what constitutes exposure? The day before the cat was put down, there was a barbecue at my brother's house. I petted the allegedly-rabid cat; afterwards they said she was drooling and they thought she'd licked the soap, also that she may have a cold - so I washed my hands before touching my cat. My SIL's cat-loving mother very likely petted the cat, as well. My parents entered the home, but didn't pet the cat. Who, if anyone, needs shots?

I feel like I'm in a horror movie with some freaky fatal disease...except it's real! And I realize a doctor or vet would probably be the best person to talk to...but I'm hoping someone here has been through this and can offer insight in the meantime. There are enough other stressful things going on in our lives without worrying about this. If nothing else, maybe my narrative will convince other owners of indoor cats not to get lax on vaccinations (I know I'll be more vigilant!).

Here is a link that might be useful: A helpful thread about Bats in the House and Rabies


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

We are lucky enough not to have rabies in Australia, so I know very little about it. However, I felt your anxiety and I did a bit of Googling and found this article for you. I think it sheds some light on the subject and hope it might be of interest to you.

I do hope everything turns out alright for all of you.

Cheers,
Dee.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rabies


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

There's a ton of information here: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html

And I've put a link to some assistance programs for the shots below.

The waiting is the hardest part. Once the doctors and vets have the test results, there are established protocols that will come into play. They will know exactly who does and doesn't need the shots. Rabies is a huge public health issue, and they will make sure that everyone who needs the shots will get them.

I used to think it was silly that my indoor-only cat needed a rabies shot, until I got a bat in the house a few months ago. Now I'm kind of grateful there is a law about vaccinating pets.

Here is a link that might be useful: help for underinsured


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

My daughter was bitten by a stray cat when she was 5 and we could not find the cat to turn it in, so she had to have the series of shots. It was a pain, literally and figuratively. It is a series of 5 or 6 shots that have to be given a certain number of weeks apart. They are given in the butt and are supposedly quite painful, but she was a trooper -- I bribed her by taking her to dunkin donuts after every one. Here in PA, they can only be given in the ER, so each time we had to go to the ER, wait around for hours, and finally get a 20 second shot. The waiting was the worst part -- there are lots of things a 5 year old sees that they shouldn't be exposed to at that age while waiting for hours in an ER waiting room. Finally after about the 3rd shot (after my daughter witnessed someone come in dripping blood from multiple stab wounds), I complained all the way up to the ER manager and they finally agreed to let us come in for an "appointment" for the shot at their least busy time and not keep us waiting so long (though we were still bumped for true emergencies).

Anyhow, we were told that if we found the cat, we could pay to have it quarantined at the animal shelter for 10 days to see if it develops symptoms. If not, we could keep the cat as long as we paid for the vaccination. (It was a sweet cat that had been hanging around our house for months -- we'd been feeding him and were planning to adopt him.) As it turned out, we found the cat, but only when its owners came looking for him about a month later -- they were neighbors up the street and let him run wild all day where he pretended to be a stray and mooched food off of (as we later found out) about 5 other neighbors who also thought he was a sweetie and were planning to adopt him. The good news is that the owners had his vaccination records, so we got out of the final couple shots and they also reimbursed us for the ER bills (which, after our insurance, had run about $350 at that point).

You might try calling your local health department -- that is who handled it here. We actually had a caseworker who called to check on us to make sure we were getting every shot on time. They are the ones who make the laws regarding quarantining or euthanizing the animals and maybe they are the ones who could help with financial assistance if the shots aren't covered by insurance (ours were, mostly, thank goodness).

One more thing -- I have read cases where people were bitten by bats in their sleep and never realized it until, 6 months later, they were dead from rabies. Rabies is FATAL, always, unless the vaccine is given in time. Bats have tiny teeth and could easily bite someone without them realizing it and symptoms can take up to 6 months to manifest in humans. Once symptoms manifest, it is too late and there is no cure. I would immediately vaccinate all of my family members no matter what the cost or inconvenience because I couldn't live with the consequences if I didn't. So that, for me, is a no-brainer. Heck, you might even want to consider it, since you were petting the cat while it was exhibiting symptoms -- again, the health department could advise you on what they thought you should do.

I am sorry about the loss of their kitty and for all the stress and worrying. I know how it feels and it is not fun. Best of luck to you and your brother's family.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

I agree, camlan, once the results are in, the family will be told who needs shots.

Rabies vaccines are required by law. There are many low-cost clinics from the humane society and mobile vets around here. Remember, you cannot board or have your pet groomed without rabies vaccines being current.

Healthy wishes to everyone.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Have had first hand experience with our then indoor kitten that was (5-)6 weeks old exposed to a bat that had gotten into our house. Unfortunately, the cat was then a very young kitten and hadn't yet been vaccinated for rabies (was too young, didn't meet the weight requirement for vaccination). The kitten had been to the vet, just were waiting for our next visit for the rabies vaccination. The other 3 cats had been vaccinated, as were our dogs.

Anyhoo, I was drying my hair in our upstairs bathroom. Turned around and noticed the new kitten was sitting in the tub next to an outstretched bat. Fortunately DH was able to catch the bat in a towel, and the county animal control came out to send it off to the State for testing. This happened late on a Friday afternoon, and we had the results by Tuesday morning.

I immediately called our vet since the kitten hadn't been vaccinated yet for rabies. Our vet recommended that if the bat tested postive, all of our pets receive a rabies booster, despite the fact that all of their rabies vaccinations were current.

Technically, by our State law, we would have had to euthanize the kitten. Our vet offered to quarantine the kitten for 6 months to watch for symptoms. We had no way of knowing if the bat had bitten the kitten, but rabies isn't something that you can mess around with. Thankfully, since the bat was negative, we were spared taking the life of the new addition to our family.

Although the bat tested negative, those were the longest days waiting for the results. I self-quarantined the kitten in a crate in an effort to limit our exposure to him until the results came in. We slept with the lights on in the bedrooms at night since I was freaking out about how the bat got into the house. My neighbor owns a pest control company and he told us that they can get into your home through a very slim opening in a door or window. They can fold up enough to hide behind a hanging picture! He also told me that most time, bats in our area test negative for rabies. Same thing with opposum.

From what I learned during that period of waiting ~ anyone having contact with a rabid animal requires the shots.

Just as an aside, we had an outside cat go missing for a few days. When he returned he was walking like he was drunk, and exhibited neurological symptoms mirroring those of rabies exposure. When we took the cat to our vet, he was diagnosed with something called "vestibular syndrome". It can be tricky to diagnose as it presents so similarly to a rabies infection.

It's a tough thing to wrap your head around. I hope that
the cat is negative, and that you don't have to go through having the shots. All employees in vets offices have precautionary rabies shots before starting employment.

Our county animal control was very helpful with information as was our vet. I would think your local board of health would be helpful as well. Bottom line is that all pets need current rabies vaccinations regardless if they are indoor or outdoor pets.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Yesterday I took my dog to the vet to get his nails trimmed and I noticed they had some literature for rabies vaccinations for cats. I'd never realized cats should be vaccinated, too...my vet never had mentioned it to us when we've brought them in for other things. Our dogs are all vaccinated because it's required for them to get their licenses and most groomers won't take them without proof of vaccination.

So now, after reading this, and the literature in the vets office, I am thinking I should at least take the outdoor cats in for rabies shots. they've had the other cat shots, but I don't know if that includes rabies.

Luckily we don't have bats, but we DO have those stinking possums. Our local wildlife place said they don't usually carry rabies but another type of virus, and since I'm susceptible to infections, we get the animals the vaccine to that.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Pesky, I would imagine your outdoor cats get the rabies vaccination if they are getting other shots. They may get a 3-year vaccine so you might not have seen it on your last visit.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Yes, cats should all be vaccinated - its the law here in NY anyway. All 10 of my indoor cats are vaxed, just in case they get out, which happens inadvertently from time to time, or if a bat gets in as I know they would be ecstatic to have such a new plaything!

But even a vaccinated cat, if previously exposed to rabies before the vaccination, can become ill from the disease and get active - and infective - rabies. I believe that there is a possible window of three months, an less-probable window of six months, and an extremely unlikely limit of one year for a previously infected cat, who was subsequently vaccinated to begin disease expression. Since I do cat rescue of previously unvaccinated cats, when I place a newly-vaxed cat I make sure that the family knows what signs of incipient rabies to watch for, and that for at least year it is technically possible for them to come down with the disease. After that, presuming cont'd vaccination and no bite additional exposure then all will be OK.

But even a vaxed cat if bitten by a rabid animal, or an animal of unknown rabies status, will need an immediate booster shot.

I am sorry that your family memeber had to euthanize the cat. In most cases once an active infection begins it's only a matter of days before such obvious and irrefutable signs and death occur. If the signs were already irrefutable then euthanization was the merciful choice. If it's in doubt, however, confining the cat where it can be safely observed for another day or two will either allow the disease to progress unmistakably or if the cat continues to live allow for another diagnosis, perhaps avoiding unnecessary euthanization.

The testing and return of results from the lab takes only a few days, max a week, since it is critical for all humans and pets who may have been exposed to begin prophylaxis (shots) as soon as possible.

The shots are very expensive but most insurance plans are required to provide them; if there is no insurance then usually public health authorities will give them. In the case of a lab-confirmed rabies exposure its not the same as pre-exposure shots which an insurance comapny may balk at. After confirmed exposure it is the only known treatment for the disease, so it's NOT optional. The insurance company would no doubt be on the hook for the treatment, and likely terminal care, of the people if they got rabies. That would be orders of magnitude more expensive (multiple hundreds of thousands apiece, since human euthanasia is not an option) than the series of shots. Don't let the insurance company consider these shots as they would if the family was opting to get them in advance of any exposure as they might if they were veterinary workers or wildlife specialists, for instance. At this point, (assuming confirmed rabies exposure) the shots are standard of care treament, not prophylaxis even though they are intended to arrest the disease before it progresses.

If there have been bats in the house, especially in cases where children have been asleep in the room where the bat was found, then the shots were necessary even then. Luckily pets can be vaxed, inexpensively so that, at least, keeps things simple.

Arranging things in the household in order to avoid bat exposure is a very important. Absent that, then nets over beds is the best choice.

Bats are very good for the environment so killing bats just in case is not an option.

For the other animals in the house, if the rabies is confirmed, I would consider having a rabies titer done on each immediately. And repeated weekly or at 10-days intervals. Rising titer numbers w/o additional vaccinations indicates an incubating rabies infection. The rabies titers are complicated and must be done on fresh, refrigerated blood and sent to a special lab for analysis. They are not cheap, but if the alternative is euthanizing an animal that may not be infected, I think it is worth it. If the rabies is confirmed, and the animals did not have proof of previous, within-schedule vax, then they may need to be confined for 6 months.

By the way rabies shots (without a specific bite) are given in the butt and are nowhere near as painful as many people have heard they are. I have relatives who have had to have them and while they were a bit sore, they reported it was nothing awful.

I will keep your family in my thoughts and hope things turn out well.

L.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat need to add

Somehow I missed the part about petting the already-drooling cat the day before. (That cat should have been confined for the BBQ!)

My uninformed guess is that, yes, anybody who touched the cat who was drooling may need the shots if the cat has lab confirmed rabies. That would go double for all the children present since they may not remember touching the cat, or may be afraid to report doing so.

Sorry.

I certainly would be talking to my county (or state) public health people. They usually have a rabies control person.

I had to have a conversation with my county rabies control person about a possible exposure on Thursday because early that morning I was coming in from feeding the barn animals and stopped to admire the bats who come swirling in at about 4:45 am to roost in the attics of my big dairy barns. (I used to have many thousands of bats, but due to white-nose disease it has dwindled down to just a few dozen, alas.) As I was standing there watching the bats something touched me below my jaw bone on my bareneck. No scratch or bite, and it may have been a a large moth as I was holding a flashlight up with that hand illuminating the bat entrance.

But it could have been a bat, which is why I flew on in and exmanined and washed the area and then took a hot shower immediately. The lack of bite or scratch and immediate washing is what saved the day, but this was NOT with an animal that had been confirmed rabid (and it was presumably healthy since the contact was entirely accidental). Direct physical contact with a salivating-stage rabid animal is trouble no matter how you look at it, since the viral load is so high by then. And even absent a known bite, a previous small scratch or wound or droplet on conjunctiva, mucous membrane, etc. could be a vector. I've been told that the virus can remain infective (to contact) for up to an hour or so in open air. I imagine after it dries, it loses its potential to remain live.

I don't want to scare you, but if the test comes back positive then anyone who had contact with the animal, washed hands or not, may need to be treated. Since there was non-resident exposure, it's likely the health department or public health authorites will get involved to make sure everyone is treated. The good news is that people with secondary exposure to the guests (their family members, for instance) are not at risk since you are not infective until you become sick yourself.

I am sorry and though it will be tragic if the cat was euthanized unnecessarily, I am hoping the test comes back negative. Even if the test is negative, I think the family might try to take comfort in having made the difficult decision to euth. on the grounds that it may have spared the animal some suffering.

My very best wishes to you and your family.
L.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

I am so sorry.

Question: was 5000 a typo? I can't imagine that it wasn't. Even $50 sounds high. We pay $30 for a three-year vaccine for our dogs at a fairly expensive vet outside Washington DC. I don't think of that as expensive at all. On several occasions our dogs have killed raccoons in the back yard and we were told to give them the boosters right away since it had been over a year since their vaccination. The vet said better to be safe-it can take a while to get test results back here in VA.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

I think the shots for humans are more expensive than the vaccine for dogs and cats. I have no idea why.

If they are always administered at a hospital, as a PP mentioned, that would up the cost over just a visit to your doctor's office. There'd be the cost of the vaccine, the cost of the treatment room, and the cost of the nurse/doctor who administers the shot.

My nephew needed a vaccine that was administered monthly from November to April for the first two years of his life. Each time he got the shot, it cost about $1,750. Part was the vaccine, which is expensive. But several hundred dollars went to the room in the hospital where the shot was given, and the nurse who gave the shot. Just to give an example of another vaccine that costs a lot more than you would expect, per shot.

Also, I think the issue for the family in the OP is that they may not have any insurance right now--sounds like the SIL has started a new job, but the health insurance didn't start with the first day on the job, but will kick in at some later date.

Rabies being what it is, I think the public health authorities make sure that people get the shots, even if they can't afford them.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Oops. Thanks Camlan. I did not pick up that the OP was talking about shots for the human family. Still $5000 seems high for each, even without insurance. Perhaps that was for all of them and without insurance.

Hope the tests come back negative!


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Five thousand dollars apiece for each person is about right for the series of shots ncessary after rabies exposure.

The vaccine is expensive because it is not a common one, and there is some risk in taking it (weighed against huge risk of getting rabies, of course) so there's product liability costs in there. And because, well, the companies that make it can get away with charging that. How much would you pay to avoid an always-deadly illness you were akready exposed to?

But if there is insurance, the insurance co. will pay way less. And if even if there is a co-pay the amount will be based on the contractual price to the insurance company.

Recently I investigated getting preventive rabies shots to protect me because of wildlife project I was thinking of doing. It was more than two thousand dollars (all on my own nickel as it wasn't a health insurable-able cost) for the shots, and there were fewer of them (just two, IIRC) than are needed post-exposure.

In my state if you have no money and no insurance and have a documented exposure, you will get them without charge - paid for by the state health department. But they force your isurance to pay if possible. I live in NY.

L.


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Rabies treatment decision-making guideline re post-exposure rabie

This is the guideline here in NY.

It was updated in 2010, and now is not recommending treatment after petting a rabid animal unless there was contact with saliva.

Maybe this will be helpful to the OP and her family.

Here is a link that might be useful: NYS Health Department Guidelines for when to treat possible rabies exposures


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

As a vet tech, this scenario is THE example I give to clients who don't want to vaccinate their "indoor only" cat. We've all seen cats chase moths, why on earth would people think that a fluttering bat would be ignored? Bats find their ways into houses ALL the time, and a bat that gets into a house and is flying around during the day or when they normally would not, is usually rabid.

Unfortunately, in may states the Rabies vaccination is actually not required for cats, which makes NO sense to me, but it is what it is. In certain states, such as Wisconsin, it it determined by the county.

Both pre-exposure and post-exposure rabies shots for humans are very expensive. There is not a large enough demand for them like there is for animal rabies vaccinations, and they are not the same shot as what you'd give your animals. Depending on your area, it can cost upwards of $1500 for the three-vaccination pre-exposure set, and I can totally see post-exposure running $5000 per person, yes. It is terribly unfortunate that someone wanting to save a $100 vet bill will now possibly have to come up with $20k to make sure they don't die from a totally preventable problem. I am sorry if I sound unsympathetic, but I deal with people like this every day. RABIES IS FATAL. Are there seriously people who do not know this??? There is NO such thing as an indoor-only animal. If your house blows over due to a storm, part of it burns down, your kids leave the door open...whatever, your cat CAN get outside and be exposed to disease. Not to mention the costs involved if your unvaccinated cat bites someone and then needs to be quarantined at a vet hospital for 10 days. VACCINATE YOUR ANIMALS. Rabies KILLS.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Sadly, $5,000 was not a typo. And even worse, a lousy and/or shady health plan may be able to weasel out of paying for shots since technically, they are considered a vaccination - even post-exposure. (They argued over whether it was the medical plan, the prescription plan, neither, etc.) I learned all this the hard way after our son was exposed several years ago. (Bat in the room where he slept.)

Fortunately, the cat is being examined, and hopefully, it will test negative. But if not, PLEASE, PLEASE take the exposure risk very seriously. Saliva in a pre-existing cut could be all it takes...

Your county's health department, your vet, and the children's pediatrician should both be excellent resources.

When my son had the shots (maybe 3-4 years ago?) there were two nasty ones in the thighs, and the rest were in the shoulder, and not too bad. Since his insurance refused to cover it, we're very grateful that the County did.

Please make sure they investigate this thoroughly --
I'll keep them in my thoughts.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

This was such a timely thread. I found a bat in my kitchen this morning.

Since it could have been flying around in the bedrooms last night, it needs to be tested for rabies.

Just in case this happens to you:

I caught the bat, which was not moving, lying in the kitchen sink, by throwing a towel over it. Then I put on leather gloves and picked up the towel-covered bat and put it in a shoebox and taped it shut. Probably didn't need the tape, but it made me feel better.

Called the state Department of Public Health. At 5:15 am. A real, live person answered and told me he would contact the state lab, which would call me back.

At 5:45, I got a call from the Public Health nurse on duty. She was great. She told me the bat needed to be tested for rabies and that she would contact the Fish and Game department, which would send someone by to pick it up. If they picked it up early enough, I'd have the test results by the end of the day.

At 8:00, I got a call from a guy at the Fish and Game department. He came by at 8:30 and picked up the bat. He had to fill out a form and then he headed off to the state lab.

I am impressed that all this happened so quickly. Everyone I spoke with took it seriously, but was also very reassuring and comforting, telling me that the chances of a bat in my area carrying rabies is slim. Had I had an encounter with a raccoon, on the other hand, apparently there would have been a greater risk.

So now I just have to wait.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

camlan - ugh, I can so relate. Great advice about using a towel, we did the same. Our results took 3 days as the bat was captured late on a Friday. I believe I got a call on the following Tuesday early with the results. Thankfully, it was not positive for rabies. I hope your bat is not either.

Any word from OP regarding the rabies status of the cat?


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

OP here! I *finally* found out late this evening that my niece's cat tested negative for rabies (plus my niece probably doesn't have scoliosis, and my nephew is back to normal after eating the wrong berries in the yard). Whew! I feel like I've had 100lbs lifted off me; it's been a rough few days, with a whole lot of waiting. Any moment now I'll probably hear that my grandfather is finally resting in peace, and then the waiting will be through. Strange how these things hit all at once, isn't it?

Yesterday it dawned on me that I *did* have an official source I could question on the weekends: my childhood friend who's now a vet. She reacted similarly to meigzilla, advised me to bite the bullet and get the shots if the cat tested positive since any remote chance of death-by-rabies wasn't worth taking, and worried all day.

Thank you all so much for your support, personal stories, useful links (camlan, I don't think I would have slept last night without your link for the uninsured!), and tough-love advice. It was so helpful to hear from others who have been through similar situations. I started this thread for a few reasons; to get more 'real world' input than I was able to find on official rabies websites, to vent my anxieties, and to inform others who might not realize their pets could be at risk. It's been a hair-raising example of why people should only have as many pets as they can afford vet bills for, and why no one should assume their indoor pets are 'safe'. I'm feeling a little humbler today (no more 'it couldn't happen to me'), and very thankful for the kindness of friends and strangers. It was a very sad lesson for my brother's family, but I'm sure they'll be more conscientious pet owners in the future. And you can be sure that my baby, Tabitha, will be getting her boosters this summer!

2012-07-08 22.22.40


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

Great to hear the good news! That has to be a relief --


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

I have good news. My bat did not have rabies. I called the state at 5:15 am and got the results back at 3:45 pm. I was impressed with how well they handled it, and how quickly.

But, in talking about the incident with friends and co-workers, I've discovered that a lot of people don't realize that bats can carry rabies. In my state, they figure about 25% of all bats have rabies. Several people thought I was making a big fuss over nothing, and flat out told me that I shouldn't have called the state Public Health department--it was just a waste of time and resources. Funny, no one from the state that I talked to thought that way.

From doing a little research, it seems that the percentage of bats with rabies has been rising. Maybe 50 years ago, they weren't a big threat. But they are today, it's just that most people don't realize it.


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RE: Rabid Indoor Cat

I'm surprised people thought you were making a fuss over nothing--I've always been told that bats are one of the major rabies carriers! And to say it was a waste of resources to call-that's just crazy. What's a public health dept for if not to help the public on matters such as this?


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