Recently someone living in a neighborhood near UNC-A found a cat that appeared to be lost. They took the cat in from the cold; a simple, compassionate gesture that many animal lovers may relate to. Unfortunately, the cat later became ill and had to be euthanized. Last week test results revealed that the cat had been infected with rabies. Here is what we know:
The cat received an injury from an unknown animal about a week before becoming ill. Many well-intentioned individuals leave food outdoors for cats. Because they roam outdoors, these cats can easily come into contact with other wild animals which can transmit rabies to the cat and potentially be further spread to other cats or pets.
As a result of this one cat being taken in, 6 people are receiving post-exposure rabies vaccines to prevent infection, including 5 employees of the pet clinic where the sick cat was taken. This is done as a precaution because if contracted, rabies is fatal for humans.
“The Buncombe County Department of Health is working closely with the Asheville Police Department (APD) and Animal Control to increase surveillance and possibly capture feral cats in the immediate area where the rabid cat was recently discovered.”, said Marc Fowler, Environmental Health Director with the Department of Health. “Concerns about feral cats in the city limits may be referred to the APD at 252-1110.
Several animals are responsible for transmitting rabies in Western North Carolina including coyotes, foxes, skunks, groundhogs and bats. In a majority of cases rabies is carried by raccoons. All these animals are known to live throughout the state and Buncombe County, including the city limits of Asheville. They live on food found around trash cans and dumpsters everywhere, and also on pet food left outdoors for domesticated animals including cats.
This has been a difficult situation, but one we can all learn from.
It is extremely important that pet owners have their dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated for rabies and for those vaccines to be kept up to date.
If an unvaccinated pet is exposed to any other animal whose rabies status cannot be verified, that pet must be quarantined by a veterinarian for 6 months at the owner’s expense; or the pet must be euthanized.
It is also important that food not be left outdoors to feed wild animals or feral cats. Kevin Calhoun with the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department says, “Don’t feed wild animals. Feeding feral cats or wild animals brings the two together, increasing the potential for the spread of rabies.”
Contact authorities if an animal is seen behaving unusually. This may mean that a wild animal is not afraid of humans; a nocturnal animal is seen wandering around during the day; a pet is uncharacteristically aggressive; or any animal is behaving in a drunken state or lethargic.
If someone is aware of unknown cats in their neighborhood, they should not feed them, and call Animal Control. In the Asheville city limits they should call 252-1110. In Buncombe County call 250-6670.