Your cat can get rabies if it has been bitten by an animal that is rabid. Rabies is caused due to a virus that affects the central nervous system. Through the nervous system, the virus spreads all over the body and then finds it way into the brain.
This usually happens around 2 to 6 weeks after the cat has been bitten by an infected animal. However, once the virus reaches the brain, the cat will start showing symptoms of rabies. Thereafter, the virus makes it way into the salivary glands and now the cat can infect anyone it bites.
Due to wide scale inoculation and awareness about rabies, most domestic animals in the US are rabies-free. However, wild animals like raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats are carriers of the rabies virus, and it is through them that domestic cats get infected.
The rabies symptoms in cats progresses based on the various stages of the disease. This said, even if your cat has been bitten by an infected animal, you can prevent it from getting the disease by ensuring that you immediately take it to the vet for vaccination. But, the rabies symptoms appear in cats, then it is most likely that the cat will die or have to put down.
The rabies symptoms in cats progress through three stages -- prodormal, furious and paralytic stages.
The first stage or the prodormal stage usually lasts for 24 to 48 hours. Here the symptoms of the infection are characterized by high fever, abnormal behavior, changes in the cat's temperament, drooling too much, dilation of the pupils, snapping at unseen objects, wanting to be alone, suffering from headaches, appetite loss, biting objects, roaring and itching the area where the cat was bitten.
Some cats just stay in the first stage and do not progress to the second stage; while others may go through all three stages.
The next stage is the furious stage. This stage begins after the 48th hour. Here the cat will behave really erratically and this behavior will be quite obvious and noticeable. Besides that the other rabies symptoms include being aggressive, wandering around pointlessly, being irritable, getting disoriented, suffering from seizures, having no coordination of the muscles, exhibiting no fear, trembling and growling.
Then comes the last stage, the paralytic stage. In this stage the cat becomes completely unresponsive and depressed. Besides that it will foam from the mouth, suffering from progressive paralysis, become weak, breath with a lot of difficulty, and sit with an open mouth and its tongue will protrude out of the mouth. As the rabies symptoms become worse, the cat will suffer from respiratory failure, go into a coma and finally succumb to the infection.
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