Rabies case in farm cat prompts vaccination warning

Two people were recently bit by a farm cat that likely contracted rabies from a bat

The big brown bat is one of several species found in Alberta. Although the incidence of rabies in bats is low in the province, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association strongly recommends people have their pets vaccinated.
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A rabid farm cat that bit its owner and another person has prompted the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association to warn pet owners to vaccinate against rabies.

The association said the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian received notification of the positive rabies test on Nov. 13.

“This nine-year-old, indoor-outdoor cat was born and lived on a farm near Longview,” the ABVMA said in its e-newsletter. “The cat displayed extreme aggression and bit the owner and the owner’s son. This prompted them to seek medical attention, and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis commenced immediately.”

The rabies virus infects the brain and nervous system of mammals and, if not treated in time, is almost always fatal.

Four other cats and two dogs on the farm have been given post-exposure rabies vaccinations and placed under a three-month quarantine. Further testing identified the type of rabies as the bat variant of the virus.

“Cats hunting bats is not an abnormal scenario and with the small percentage of bats that are positive for rabies in Alberta, having an unvaccinated cat positive for rabies can occur,” said the ABVMA.

The last two such cases in cats occurred in 2010 and 2006. There was also a case in 2013 when a puppy brought to Calgary from Nunavut tested positive for the arctic fox variant.

“So far in 2018 we have also had nine bats test positive for rabies through scenarios in which they interacted with pet dogs, pet cats, or directly with humans,” the ABVMA said. “These positive bats have been from all over Alberta, which is not surprising given that bats are present in rural and urban areas and move freely throughout the province.”

Despite that low rate, “it is important to remember that only through vaccination of our pets can we protect their health and in turn, human health,” the veterinary association said.

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