Rabies is a word most people are familiar with. It’s a word associated with animals behaving aggressively and leading to fatality.  There is more to this virus than abnormal behavior. Let us discuss what makes Rabies do devastating, and how it can be missed by many.

Where can you find it? Most people know Rabies can be carried by wild animals. Skunks, raccoons, and bats are common carriers of the virus, but did you know feral cats are among the top carriers of Rabies in the state of Pennsylvania? Farmers and the kind hand can both be affected when these cats wander onto their property.

Rabies is fatal, affecting the brain and central nervous system. There are two forms of the disease: furious and paralytic.  The furious form causes abnormal behavior which is what most people are familiar with.   Animals can appear friendly and unable to walk with the paralytic form, and you may wrongly think that they have been hit by a car.

 Rabies is transmissible through a bite or if saliva comes in contact with a scab, wound or mucus membranes. The virus travels through the nerves. It can take months after a bite for the virus to reach the brain.  Never touch an animal that you suspect may have Rabies. Never allow your children to touch wild or stray animals. Harboring wild animals is against the law without a permit to do so.

Stray animals should always be handled with great care. Do not handle a stray cat or dog when you don’t know its history. Before exposing yourself, your family, your friends, or your pets to a stray animal, have it examined and vaccinated by a veterinarian. If you do not want to keep a stray cat or dog, contact your local shelter to see what can be done in the meantime. Always ask how to handle a stray dog safely. Coax a stray cat into a carrier or a trap with wet food, do not pick it up. Human safety takes priority!

Consider your neighbor. Not everybody wants a cat or a dog. Dropping unvaccinated animals at another person’s property puts them and their family at risk. Always call your local shelter to see if they have room for an unwanted animal or a Rabies vaccine program to help protect those around you until that animal can be taken somewhere to stay.

When is it time to vaccinate your pet? Cats and dogs are able to be vaccinated for Rabies at 12 weeks of age in Pennsylvania. If you have bought a kitten or a puppy that is younger than 12 weeks, they have NOT received a Rabies vaccine. In Pennsylvania, if you have a cat or a dog that is 12 weeks of age or older and have not vaccinated it for Rabies, you are breaking the law.

The real threat of Rabies is turning a blind eye to its danger.


~Kim Baumunk

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