- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


HELP! Newbie with Q's about Rabies

July 13th, 2006, 04:58 AM
I'm new to your forum and am unable to sleep due to what occurred today with my neighbor's 13 yr old cat. The cat was euthanized today, but I am VERY seriously suspecting it had rabies and know that it bit my neighbor in attempting to put it into the cat carrier she borrowed from me to take it to the vet. The image of this cat has remained burned in numerous flashbacks.

My neighbor has asked on numerous occasions over the years regarding various medical matters for her cat (I have three male sweet softies and have grown up with cats since I was a child .. even had one euthanized when I was 9 years old for distemper, so I've seen and encountered many things).

I have seen many, many injuries and illnesses, but this I saw today still has me very worried. She borrowed one of my cat carriers ... guess you can tell she'd not ever taken this cat to a vet. This cat was primarily for "function" of ridding them of their mice infestation many years ago, and once that problem was done, the cat had to fend for itself.

Okay, let me get on with the symptoms here. I'd like to note that this definitely wasn't distemper ... not a vet, but I know. I gave her (my neighbor) one of my small kitty cartons of cat milk ... I give it to my cats for various reasons and suggested for her to try to put a TINY bit in a TINY bowl. I said that if he had NO interest in it, then this was very serious. I hadn't seen her cat, so had no idea. She said he'd lost a lot of weight (alarm bells for me), and she wondered if he might have something caught in his throat. Realize that when I saw the cat was when she brought him over inside the carrier I heard the cat before I saw him. The breathing was so LOUDLY labored it put chills all through me. She told me that he had started to act like his back legs couldn't walk ... wobbly. Through the door of the carrier I saw a cat with eyes tearing but it looked like the eyes were in a permanent wide open state. The choking hacking sound with the loud labored breathing from this cat was constant ... and the drooling from his opened mouth ... he didn't close his mouth ... was thickish and whitish and hanging down from his mouth. She said he hadn't been eating or drinking and wouldn't eat or drink. He didn't drink the kitty milk.

She told me that he'd been like this for the last two days and I quickly got my personal phone book and wrote down the name, address and phone number of my vet and gave it to her. I told her that in looking at her cat ... I told her that he was dying and needs to be seen by a vet NOW ... ASAP! i've never said such a thing before ... this cat was in really bad bad shape!

Trust me when I say here that what I saw through the carrier door (and heard) is like nothing anyone wants to encounter. The cat did not appear to be violent, but was definitely agitated by the horrible health mess he was in. Trust me, please, I've seen a lot, but this? Nothing can compare!

Realize further that at the time I was just stunned at this cat's condition. I could envision dollar signs for a vet, but what I saw that even with antibiotics and IV's, there would be no quick remedy for his suffering ... he was WAY beyond any normal conventional intervention. So, considering my vet was a good 15 to 20 minute drive away (in good traffic) I told her to take him to a place that is four blocks away ASAP. That cat's suffering was so unbearable for me to even think to put him thru another 20 minutes to get to my vet.

I look back reflecting and now wish I had gone with her, but her daughter went with her. It was maybe 30 minutes later she came back to my house after seeing the vet to tell me the euthanasia was done and that the vet had said that her cat "might" have had AIDS/leukemia.

Since her cat has had to fend for himself for many years, I've been a friend to this cat, so I wept, and have wept since. But am happy he is not suffering ... his suffering was the most horrible to the point I cannot describe.

I'd like to further add here is my neighbor has a dingo dog. He's a barker so I've had to learn to live with it and have biscuits and rawhide I toss over the fence for my sanity, but these last couple of months this dog has just about drove me crazy. I mention this since my neighbor commented to me today that the dog has killed five possums, but she only mentioned this after I had mentioned I'd seen a raccoon on my side patio one night that I found rather odd. We live here in sunny San Diego, California, but live only a block from a canyon. It has been hotter than usual, so animals have been coming up to find food and water. This is the first time in 25 years I've ever seen a raccoon in my yard! I don't have bird feeders or any veggies or meat or garbage ... nothing at all in my yard to invite a raccoon. I had the light on at night as well, and it just stood there and looked at me as if being friendly. I've had possums and they usually play dead or do a freeze act, but something didn't seem right when I saw this raccoon. I've seen raccoons before, but this just didn't seem right.

I asked my neighbor if her cat had had vaccines ... well, she wasn't sure. I, also, asked about flea protection and what I gathered from that was ... well, I think you get the picture.

I have three sweet softies and I know my cats have been around her cat but know that they haven't had any wounds since I think maybe Janurary.

My neighbor said to call this four block away vet regarding any information concerning her cat and so forth.

This AIDS/leukemia bit just didn't sit well with me for this sudden type of onset, so I called the vet's place where she took him. After all, I'd like to know if it was contagious or ... well, just to know what things I needed to ask my vet to perform in making sure my cats didn't get this horrible problem (and know how to budget my money for anything additional). Well, as you suspected, they couldn't give me any information due to privacy/liability issues. I worked around it a bit with using "hypothetical" kinds of questions, but it boiled down to considering a necropsy on the cat, which I had no idea what the cost for that would be and this vet's office didn't do them nor gave me any speculation of what it might cost ... I was willing to contribute, you know? But they couldn't do one without the neighbor calling to inquire and request it. If this is something contagious or a human health risk, I think a LOT of neighbors here would like to know. Best I could get was to call my neighbor again and ask her to call the vet to find out about necropsy or a diagnosis.

I didn't get a call back afer many hours and knowing the cat had been put in the cooler and/or picked up for disposal, I called my neighbor tonight and was told that the cat had a cancer/tumor in the throat. Simple layman's terms I suppose or it could be this cat had a secondary illness of cancer or AIDS ... lesions, but trust me I will NEVER forget the kind of hacking this cat did and it wouldn't have been doing this kind of hacking if it was a cancerous/lesion/tumor and the wheezing labored breathing was ... I just don't know.

There are no testing for rabies on pets ... only tests that can be done kill the animal. In viewing websites on rabies and other things ... my opinion here is the cat had rabies. And my neighbor got bit on her hand and I know she didn't dress it immediately because she showed it to me. Rabies hadn't entered my mind totally at the time. I don't really know how to go about this but I feel I must say something to her. I know the shots for treatment are no fun ... better than they were back in the 60's when a friend of mine had to endure the pain of rabies treatment, but they are not something I would want to go thru even with today's "newer" treatment.

I don't know if she mentioned the possums, the raccoon or being bit by her cat to the vet, but when in such a stressed situation of euthanizing a pet, such things seem unimportant. Her husband is mostly the party who "controlled" the theme of letting the cat fend for itself all these years, but I don't wish to suspect rabies like I do ... but don't want to see my neighbor die such a horrible death. I just don't know what to do.

I haven't asked for my carrier back so will be going to buy another carrier tomorrow so I can take my three cats in for the AIDS/leukemia testing. I can't remember if two of my cats I adopted had been vaccinated for leukemia virus, and I've changed vets for my other one, and know I'd had him vaccinated for leukemia, etc.. Anyway, I don't mess around with my sweet softies when a threat is present, but am I addressing the right threat?

I tried to find photos on the Internet tonight of cat(s) or dog(s) faces to be able to compare with what I saw today but didn't find anything, so if anyone here has a link that has facial views, I'd appreciate it .. and please understand I'm not asking like a goremonger. I will rest better if I can have some answers. Perhaps my vet will call this other vet to find out, but hearing that bit with a cancer/tumor in the throat I'm not inclined to trust this place much that is four blocks from the house ... I'm kinda choosy about where I take my cats after years of difficulties with various vets that almost killed my cats.

So, aside from asking for link(s) on the "photo gallery of faces" of animals with rabies I'd like to get some feedback regarding places I should possibly contact about this ... and maybe find out more about raccoon behavior if they do have rabies and what is the norm or non-norm type of rabies they get and/or pass along .. paralytic, etc.? And, of course, anything that could be considered to research that this cat might have had other than rabies? I'm truly stumped since the symptoms I saw today and sites giving symptomology on rabies, rabies clunks down like a big, loud ringing bell.


July 13th, 2006, 06:09 AM
That is truly sad but if I were you to find out more I would contact the University closest to you that has a veterinary medicine course and ask them for info they will help you out and you could tell them everything you saw and mention you thought it may be rabies. I think if the cat had rabies the vet would have to report it to prevent an outbread of animals that have come in contact. You could check with your vet about protocol if it was rabies. By the way welcome to the board

July 13th, 2006, 07:03 AM
Poor cat:sad:
Like Mastifflover says,if rabies was suspected,I believe the vet has to notify the authorities.
Whatever was wrong with this poor cat,was not something that happened over night.
At least the"neighbor from hell"had enough sense to end his suffering humanely,now if something could be done to her:evil: (just kidding,I live too far away!)

July 13th, 2006, 07:08 AM
Chico play nice

July 13th, 2006, 07:11 AM
Thank you for your response mastifflover. The thing here is I don't know if the cat has already been picked up for disposal, so I will be contacting the vet's office early in the morning to find out. Then, find out who does such tests on brains of cats .. not a real pleasant thought to think a dead cat would probably be decapitated to perform the test. And to have this test done, I'd have to have written approval (or maybe her calling them) to have it done (without her knowing her cat would be decapitated for the agency/place to perform the tests on the brain). What I mean is they don't always tell people what they have to do to perform tests, so this detail is something not needed to be told to her. This will take time to accomplish, but I'll have to know first if the cat has been already removed for destruction.

At issue here is that I sincerely believe the cat had rabies, and my neighbor got bit. I managed to make an appt for my three cats for tomorrow, but I'll have to go shopping to get another carrier ... and since I've been unable to sleep tonight I don't know I'll be getting around to calling any universities (and they, too, are bound by legal and ethical themes by people who call them asking questions). Right now time is an issue. But, I think I do have a plan to attempt to get some thing done tomorrow in the timeline, but don't know how much.

I've dealt with calling universities in the past on various different subjects and callbacks seem to take a long time. Time right now is rather of importance since if the animal has already been picked up from the vet's office, fat chance of anything further being done ... plus, being in my position here, I'm not the pet owner so I can't request (or have any documentation that this cat even existed) to have this kind of thing done. This woman got bit by this cat so rabies needs to be ruled out ASAP. If the animal is destroyed, the vet has no liability if she dies. And I don't think anyone really knows what it's like to do the vaccination shots unless they've been there. It's not something to do without some heavy thought. The side affects are most unpleasant.

One would think that a vet with experience would "from the hip" know if this was rabies or not from the visual (and listening the cat dying) exam, but due to how our legal system interferes with a diagnosis process, docs of humans and animals are both under the gun to not state or come forth with what is usually most or possibly obvious until lab tests are done which take 3 or more days for test results ... and if a patient/pet owner passes on doing tests, then they are still legally bound by such legalities to not come forth even to report a suspicion. BUT, I don't know here what the vet suspected, but I don't think that it was my influence that made her (my neighbor) decide so quickly to euthanize her cat. The vet had to have seen the same thing I saw and convinced her to euthanize. This cat was near death in my book. It was hideous what I witnessed. So, this is the place where I'm at.

I may contact a university but I know of none in the immediate locale that specializes in veterinary or have any veterinary courses.

So, I think I'll call that vet's office tomorrow and hypothetically ask if the pet's owner had mentioned she had been bit, and to indicate that hypothetically the cat had rabies and hypotethically posit that maybe something should be done ...

.... and non-hypothetically I should go ahead and ring an alarm bell to my neighbor tomorrow, which I'm afraid of doing ... just for sake of perhaps saving her life since right now I don't see that the vet is going to do anything to do any documentation insofar as to what the cat was actually dying from. So, such will keep him out of liability harms way and out of any realm of negligence.

Anyway, I am finally getting sleepy ... after 5am

July 13th, 2006, 07:19 AM
I agree I would talk to the neighbout and call the vet again and say you suspected that the cat may have had rabies and someone was bit by it so it is mandatory that you know if this was the case. You could also contact Animal control and tell them what happened and you suspect rabies and mention her getting bit. They may have to act on a call regarding rabies. You could also contact the health department and ask them too

July 13th, 2006, 03:34 PM
Hi again,

So far, I've not gotten far with this. First, my neighbor isn't home for me to contact her to see about getting her to simply make one phone call to that vet's office. Secondly, there is no way to be certain without the necropsy if the cat had rabies (and a vet isn't always studious in taking that extra step to submit an animal to the county if rabies is suspected). Thirdly, there hasn't been a reported case of rabies in this city in over 30 years (no small wonder considering what I've been through here today).

So, the best I can do is to contact that vet's office again as a concerned neighbor/citizen to indicate that my neighbor had been bitten (which I am rather sure I mentioned yesterday and this morning), and then the vet has to submit the animal to the County Vet (no fee involved on this) to do a necropsy. If, however, the pet owner requests a necropsy then the fee is $75. I spoke with the County Vet today and she took down the name of my neighbor and the cat's name so if the cat shows up for a necropsy she will contact the neighbor or the vet (grey area here) with results. I asked the County Vet regardless if the cat was submitted to the County Vet what kind of timeline there was from the time of my neighbor getting bit and when she should start treatment. She didn't know ... she does only pathology. She gave me another phone number for Public Health, which considering the situation at this time, I have not called.

I made quite a number of calls and numerous press button recordings with same questions along with asking what other kinds of things would mimic rabies later staged symptomology. I got one response which is perhaps a rattlesnake bite. I have no idea if any type of poison may cause symptoms like this, but anyone with any knowledge/experience, I'm open to hearing. As mentioned we do live near a canyon and it isn't a stretch to consider a snake bite, but seems unlikely. I haven't researched snakebites and am kind of dreading the idea since I'll probably get more hits for bites on humans than on pets.

On a last note of thought processing here regarding no reported cases of rabies ... if you think a little bit more .. what agencies would get involved in coming out of the woodwork, and what kind of criminal or financial (and media) consequences would befall the neighbor. So, she wouldn't be real anxious to find out if the pet had rabies out of pure fear. This would hold true for any pet owner submitting a pet with rabies. This again would support the wonderful clean slate of none reported in over 30 years.

My position here is I can't really do more than what I have done.

Needless to say I'd like to further accentuate to all who are reading this post to make sure to diligently take your pets in for their rabies vaccination according to the vaccination schedule.

July 13th, 2006, 04:56 PM
Here's an update.

I finally was able to talk to my neighbor just a few minutes ago and evidentally the vet's office had called her back yesterday after I had called them to verify that she had been bitten, not just scratched as they had thought. So, the cat has been submitted for the necropsy. I am VERY relieved.

I would have preferred to speak to my neighbor face to face to discuss it, but I communicated with her on her cell phone (which I managed to obtain), so she wasn't at home. As I had suspected, she had had no full understanding of the significance of the bite on her hand. As I mentioned in my previous post, I don't know what agencies will respond if the results are positive or what action(s) would descend upon my neighbor. In view of this, I wish there was some way to allow vets to submit a patient's pet as "anonymous." I wish this not just out of compassion for my neighbor's future, but for the sake of public health issues. Even I cringe at the thought of being put thru the ropes of agencies bent on sending me to jail or whatever it is that is done in such a situation. She has enough to worry about right now in enduring the thought of possibly having rabies until the test results are back. I asked her to call me when she gets home and I will then give her the phone number to contact regarding finding out the timeline from bite to treatment, since even I do not know if she should wait for the necropsy results or not to start treatment.

I had mentioned seeing a raccoon in my yard which is very unusual. Yes, I know raccoons are not uncommon, but this was just strange. I've seen skunks, possums, and foxes in my neighborhood, but this was the first time to see a raccoon. It could be simply a new random thing with the hot weather and coming out of the canyon for food and water, but if the cat tests positive for rabies, then I will call the appropriate county agency. As I suspected, my neighbor had not understood the significance of my seeing the raccoon. She, too, had never seen one in all these years.

Of course, if the raccoon was rabid, depending on what stage it is in, it would probably be dead by the time the results are back. On this same subject, I had talked to another neighbor to ask if he had seen any raccoons and he said the only ones he'd seen were dead, but hadn't seen any for a long time. So, with this limited contact on this subject, I can only hope that my siting of this raccoon is simply a normal random occurrence. Regardless, I will be leaving the lights on outside at night as deterrence.

In view of all that has happened, I am having fond memories of this poor cat with the occasional flashing images of his gut-wrenching misery. I can only imagine what my neighbor and her daughter are quietly feeling, and feel helpless with condolences. Regardless of how he wasn't really their favorite cat (they have another one that they got when their daughter was young, so it has been truly pampered ... but obviously no vet visit(s) ... so, will donate my pet carrier to them they borrowed from me yesterday), he lived a good 13 years and he was the top cat in the neighborhood according to how the cat pecking order goes. With him gone, I'm sure I'll be hearing lots of cat fights while they do their thing to claim the top cat throne. In view of how my day has unfolded, I have rescheduled my vet appointment for my cats and am hopeful that the necropsy results come in soon so I can offer to take their cat with me to my vet. I really pray that the results are negative for contagions and/or rabies. I'm hopeful that if the results are positive that I'll be informed somehow.

I am purrraying for this poor kitty and if there is a kitty heaven I purrray he's smiling and playing with friends.

July 13th, 2006, 05:57 PM
Hi Robin, I just saw your posts and wanted to offer my condolences to you, as it seems like you truly did care for this kitty and wanted what was best for him. As of now, until the necropsy comes back, the best you can do is hope and also provide as much information as possible to your neighbor about symptoms of rabies in humans.

The CDC has a ton of info at the link I've posted above (mods, please remove it if I've violated the TOS, with my sincere apologies). If you and your neighbor are on good terms, and it sounds as though you are, then I would strongly press her to take the dog to the vets as well, regardless of suspected exposure to anything.

Lastly, yes, snakebites can present symptoms like that, I lost our resident groundhog to an Eastern Timber rattler that was seeking water near our pond when I was a kid. Poor thing never saw the snake, and the snake was missing most of it's rattle, so was unable to warn that it was there. A baby or juvenile poisonous snake may not have the same venom strength as an adult, and so an animal will not die as quickly. Other poisons (like rat/mice bait) will also cause symptoms like this. In any case, I'm sorry for the loss of that poor cat, and am grateful that you did your best by him and are continuing to attempt to educate his owner.

July 13th, 2006, 06:45 PM
Thank you for your response jawert1. I must confess here that I am silently hoping for a dx of snakebite or poison or rabies and NOT FeLV. Selfish side affects of all this that's going on for me, but I am truly sick with worry. Having three cats here I'm in great turmoil with the what if's and what I may/will have to do if one or all of my cats have contracted FeLV. So, I may sound strong in my posts, but I'm very scared.

July 19th, 2006, 11:07 AM
Hi again ... well, it turns out that the cat didn't have rabies and I was told that this was all that they tested for, so I'll never know what the cat had.

July 19th, 2006, 11:39 AM
That is good news. I am sure if they found a contagious disease they would have told you.