Rabies in Cats: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Vaccination


Updated on:

Cat Rabies Vaccine

Is your cat diagnosed with rabies? Rabies is a rare but deadly contagious disease that infects different pets, especially cats. Mostly, we think rabies is a disease associated with dogs. But, it’s a contagious virus that can affect any species including cats as well. 

In the United States, cats are highly affected by rabies disease rather than dogs. It’s a highly contagious but rare disease that can spread to other animals and humans. If left untreated, it turns into a more fatal disease. Generally, rabies can be transmitted to felines through a bite wound from some other infected animal.

Once the cat is affected by rabies, you may be wondering how long it takes for a feline to show symptoms of rabies. This post explains everything about Rabies in Cats, including the symptoms of rabies in cats, causes, diagnosis, treatment, recovery, vaccination, and prevention. Check it out!

What Is Rabies Cats?

Rabies is a viral disease that majorly attacks the central nervous system and travels to the brain. When cats are infected by this contagious disease, they experience paralysis which further affects the respiratory system. Sometimes, this fatal disease could lead to death in cats.

Rabies In Cats
Rabies In Cats, Source: Bigstockphoto.com

However, it is preventable thanks to the vaccine. In general, animals that host and spread this virus are referred to as reservoirs. Some of the host reservoirs include weasels, bats, raccoons, foxes,  skunks, etc. Felines are pretty much resistant to the variant of dog rabies. Hence, cats aren’t a reservoir species of the virus.

When cats are bitten by a rabies-infected animal, the virus starts at the spot where the animal is bitten and travels through the body to the nerves until it reaches the brain. Soon after reaching the brain, the virus in the cat will start showing rabies symptoms. If left untreated, the cat may die within 7 days in the worst case.

How Did My Cat Get Rabies?

Rabies is very rare in domestic animals, especially in the United States. Giving vaccination to prevent the spread of rabies virus in cats, dogs, and other animals is compulsory in several states as per the laws. What could be the cause of rabies in cats? 

Well, several rabies carriers could affect the cat with this virus. Some of the common carriers of rabies include raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, weasels, and more. When any of these infected animals bite the cat, it can easily get rabies. 

If your pet cat is highly interacted with wild animals, your cat has a higher chance of getting the infection. When the cat is in contact with the saliva of infected mammals, it is another way of transmitting the infection.

Once your cat gets infected by the rabies virus, it can easily spread to other animals and humans in the house. In rare situations, it is plausible to get rabies through a cat scratch. If you are sure that your cat has rabies virus, contact the vet immediately to prevent further spread of the disease.

Signs and Symptoms of Rabies in Cats

The initial signs of rabies in cats will be gradual and tough to notice. In the initial days of infection, the feline may suffer from mild symptoms like fever, low appetite, feeling tired than usual, etc. As the days pass, the Rabies Symptoms in Cats may tend to develop rapidly causing weakness, breathing problems, seizures, and sometimes paralysis of the legs.

The rabies infection in cats is classified into three stages. It includes Prodromal, Furious, and Paralytic. The Signs of Rabies in Cats will progress as the infection in felines enters into various stages. Mostly, when the cats are affected by contracted rabies, they will experience 3 noticeable stages of the virus. Each stage has different symptoms while the virus gradually travels to the brain making the domestic cat into a violent feline.

The Symptoms of Rabies in Cats include the following:

  • Behavioral Changes
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Weakness
  • Drooling
  • Aggression
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Seizures
  • Hypersalivation
  • Hard to swallow
  • Paralysis
  • Depression
  • Coma or Death

All three stages of rabies in cats are explained below:

Prodromal Stage

It is the first stage wherein you may witness changes in the cat’s temperament. Due to the rabies virus, the cat’s nature will become the opposite of her common behavior. If your cat is an active cat, due to the infection, it becomes weak and nervous. 

Sometimes, the cat tries to hide itself from the family members and shows disinterest in food. We can see mood swings in the cat like becoming frustrated and all of a sudden changes its mood to hyperactiveness.

Furious Rabies Stage

Furious is the second stage also referred to as the ‘mad-dog’ stage. In this stage, the cat becomes extremely aggressive and easily gets provocative. Some of the symptoms we can witness in this furious stage of rabies include fully dilated pupils, muscle spasms, excessive drooling, and more. 

Even the slightest noise, light, and movement will trigger the feline in this stage. This stage is also known as the mad dog stage as the behavior of the cat appears to be mad. In rare cases, the cats become delusional and aggressive. 

Sometimes, they may start hallucinating and attack the environment without any triggering factor. During this stage, the cats become extremely harmful. When people get in contact with felines in the second stage, they can easily get infected by the virus.

Paralytic Stage

The paralytic Stage is the last and final stage of the rabies virus in which the cats develop paralysis of their muscular system. As a result, they lose the ability to move their muscles, jaw, and throat making them difficult to swallow food. This in turn results in hypersalivation and mouth foaming. Sometimes, the paralytic stage can lead to coma and death in some cats within no time.

Depending on the site of the infection, the cat shows symptoms of rabies between 3 to 8 weeks. In case, the cat gets bitten by some infected animal near the spine or brain will display the symptoms much faster. Also, it relies on the intensity of the bite. 

What Are The Causes Of Rabies In Cats?

The major cause of rabies virus is the transmission of the infected animal’s saliva to the cat. Once the saliva enters the body of the cat, it travels to the bloodstream and moves to the brain. Sometimes, a scratch by an infected animal may cause rabies in case the cat is not vaccinated. 

In rare situations, the saliva of the infected animal is likely to contaminate the open wound of the cat or the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, and eyes of the cat. This is the other way of virus transmission without a bite from the infected animal. 

Although the virus can’t survive for a long time in the environment, simple contact via licking an infected animal tends to the risk of rabies virus transmission.

Can Rabies in Cats Is Cured?

No, the rabies virus once infected in felines cannot be cured. The sad fact is that there is no cure for rabies in cats. Only prevention is available for rabies in cats. Hence, it is highly important to give up-to-date vaccinations to the cats without missing a single dose. Once the symptoms of rabies in cats are clear to the eye, it is not possible to cure the infection.

Diagnosing Rabies

There is no definite diagnosis method to determine rabies in a living animal. the only way to diagnose rabies in animals is to observe the Symptoms of Rabies in Cats and assess the signs. 

If the veterinarian suspects that the cat is infected by the rabies virus then the vet performs a test on the brain tissue after the death of the cat. Using a method namely direct fluorescent antibody testing, the vet performs a brain tissue examination.

To diagnose a live cat whether it has rabies or not, the vet will observe the symptoms of rabies in the cat. The veterinarian will ask the pet parent to quarantine the infected cat for about 10 days. Meanwhile, the vet will review the medical history of the cat and check the time when the cat was administered the rabies vaccination in recent times. 

Once the quarantine period is done, the veterinarian will reassess the cat’s condition and confirm whether the cat has been infected with rabies virus or not. Sometimes, the symptoms related to rabies may be confused with some other health issues of the cat. 

Hence, it may be arduous to diagnose the early symptoms of rabies in cats. Consult the vet and speak about the cat’s symptoms so that he/she will confirm the virus attack on the feline.

How Does Vet Treat Rabies in Cats?

If you have seen a few symptoms of rabies in cats, you need to take the cat to the vet immediately. In such a case, there is a slight possibility of treatment for the disease. If in case, the virus hasn’t reached the nervous system of the cat, the vet may administer an anti-rabies vaccine to the feline. 

This vaccine comprises a bunch of antibodies that are injected into the feline’s body. The anti-rabies vaccine helps improve the immune system by developing more antigens to combat the spreading virus in the body. Unfortunately, no treatment is available for rabies in cats. If the vet suspects the disease in cats, he/she may recommend humane euthanasia. 

Instead of worrying about the treatment for rabies in cats, it is better to prevent the occurrence of rabies in felines. As a result, giving up-to-date vaccinations to the cat is highly important to ensure physical health and protection from harmful disease exposure. All you can do to treat rabies in felines is to quarantine the cat and stop the spread of the disease.

Recovery and Management from Rabies

Rabies is a deadly contagious disease that has no cure. If the cat is diagnosed with rabies virus, it may die within 10 days of displaying clinical symptoms. In case, the cat has never been given a rabies vaccine then, it must be euthanized immediately after being bitten by the rabid animal. Once the cat is attacked by rabies virus, the cat doesn’t have any hope of recovery. 

Also, there is no possibility of managing the disease-affected cat for the long term once it is infected and displays the symptoms of rabies. The most important thing is that you must take the cat to the emergency vet once you witness the rabies symptoms in the cat or if you doubt that the cat has a rabies infection.

How to Prevent My Cat from Being Affected By Rabies?

The pet parents need to follow the necessary measures to prevent rabies in cats. Check it out!

  • To prevent your cat from getting infected by the rabies virus, try to keep the feline away from wildlife. 
  • Make sure you visit the vet frequently to give rabies vaccinations to the cat up to date.
  • By taking your cat to the vet for frequent check-ups by the veterinarian, you can detect health issues in cats in the early stages. This way, you can give timely medications without spreading the disease further.
  • Minimize the risk of exposure of your cat to fatal disease-related viruses by keeping them indoors. 

By following these preventive steps, you can maintain the health of your cat and prevent the attack of rabies virus in your cat.

Vaccination for Rabies in Cats

Cat Rabies Vaccine
Cat Rabies Vaccine, Source: Bigstockphoto.com

Rabies Vaccine for Cats is usually given at the age of 4 months. Further, the booster vaccine for rabies is then given to the cats one year later. Next, the rabies vaccine is given to cats every year i.e., an annual vaccine or for every 1 to 3 years considering the veterinarian’s preference and as per the recommendations of the state.

Risk of Transmitting Rabies to Humans

As per the statement of the World Health Organization, domestic dogs are majorly responsible for the transmission of rabies to humans especially in 99 percent of rabies cases. 

Still, there’s a risk of transmitting rabies to other animals [both domestic and wild. Rabies can be transmitted to humans from cat or dog saliva, bites, scratches, and through direct contact with mucosa such as open wounds, mouth, and eyes.


Here are some of the frequently asked questions related to Rabies Symptoms in Cats, causes of rabies, diagnosis procedure, treatment options, recovery, and prevention. Check the answers given to all the frequently asked questions furnished below.

  1. How Long It Take for The Rabies Symptoms To Show up In Cat?

    The time that takes between an infection and the appearance of rabies symptoms is referred to as the incubation period. Usually, the incubation period ranges between 2 and 24 weeks. On average, it might take 4 to 6 weeks to witness the Signs of Rabies in Cats.
    Depending on various factors, the cat may show clinical signs of rabies in cats. It includes the site of infection, the severity of the bite, and the amount of virus ingested by the bite into the cat. If the bite is nearer to the spinal cord and brain, the virus may spread very quickly.

  2. How Is Rabies Virus Transmitted?

    Rabies virus can be transmitted in various ways such as through direct contact with saliva from the infected animal, the bite of the infected animal, and the scratch of the rabid animal. Direct contact refers to the broken skin or mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and mouth.

  3. Is Rabies Contagious From Cats To Humans?

    Yes, Rabies is a zoonotic disease. It means that it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Hence, rabies can be transmitted from cats to humans as it is a deadly contagious disease. When you are in direct contact with the saliva of your infected cat, rabies can easily pass to you. A rare case is that humans can get rabies even from the scratch of an animal.

  4. Is Rabies Transmitted From Other Animals To Cats?

    Yes, rabies can be transmitted from other infected animals to cats through the saliva or the bite of an infected animal.

  5. In Which Animals Rabies Is Transmitted Mostly?

    Mostly, rabies is transmitted in terrestrial and airborne mammals such as foxes, jackals, dogs, lions, wolves, coyotes, cats, bobcats, mongooses, bats, skunks, badgers, monkeys, raccoons, weasels, etc.

  6. Is Rabies Deadly?

    Yes, rabies is a deadly contagious disease. If left untreated, it leads to the death of an infected animal or person.

  7. How Long Can A Cat Live With Rabies?

    A cat infected by rabies will die within 10 days of a rabies attack.

  8. Can You Get Rabies From A Cat Scratch?

    In general, rabies is transmitted to other animals or humans through the saliva of the infected animal. Hence, it is understandable that the rabies virus isn’t transmitted through the scratch of an infected feline. 
    If the scratching is accompanied by biting and hissing then, there is a slight possibility of spread through the cat scratch. This can happen as the virus gets aerosolized and transmitted to other animals or humans.

  9. Are There Any First Signs Or Symptoms Of Rabies In Cats?

    Yes, there are a few first signs or symptoms of rabies in cats. It includes behavioral changes in the cat. Once the cat is infected by rabies, it acts in different ways than they would behave normally. For instance, if the cat is an active and energetic one, its behavior may change completely to aggressive and mentally dull.

  10. Can We Test A Cat With Rabies?

    Yes, there is a test to determine whether the cat has rabies or not only after death. A test can be performed only after the demise of the infected animal or human. The reason is that to diagnose the occurrence of rabies disease in the animal, the brain matter of that animal is essential. This test is performed using a method called Direct Fluorescent Antibody Testing.

  11. What To Do If a Cat Is bitten By a Rabid Animal?

    If you doubt that the cat has been exposed to rabies virus then, you must take the feline to the emergency vet as early as possible. Even if the cat has been vaccinated against the rabies virus, it can be revaccinated as a preventive step.

  12. Can the Rabies Vaccine Prevent My Cat From Being Affected By Rabies?

    Yes, the rabies vaccine can prevent the cat from being affected by the rabies virus. The rabies virus is referred to as a core vaccine that must be received by all cats. 
    Usually, the rabies vaccine is administered to kittens starting at the age of 12 weeks. Booster vaccine must be administered in 1 year and further, it should be given every 1 to 3 years.

  13. How Often Do Cats Need Rabies Shots?

    Cats need to be given rabies shots every 3 years.

  14. Do Indoor Cats Need Rabies Shots?

    Yes, whether it is an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, rabies vaccination must be given to every pet as per the law in different states and provinces. Rabies vaccination is given to cats considering the safety of the cat as well as the humans. Rabies vaccine is given to kittens when they’re 3 to 4 months of age.

  15. Are There Any Side Effects Of Rabies Vaccine?

    No side effects are caused by rabies vaccination. The vaccines given to animals against rabies virus are totally safe. However, certain vaccines are slightly prone to cause tissue reactions. It is advisable to speak to the vet before giving vaccine shots to the pet.

  16. Is there a Cure For Rabies?

    No, there is no cure for rabies infection. Prevention is only possible rather than a cure for rabies.


Well, this is all you need to know about Rabies in Cats. We hope this article has given adequate information about the Signs of Rabies in Cats, treatment, diagnosis, prevention, and recovery. If you still have any doubts about this article, feel free to ask us in the comments section. Visit our website ‘TheCrazyCats.Net’ for more articles related to diseases in cats, food habits, behavior, and more.

Leave a Comment