Rabies confirmed in Birmingham house cat

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 15, 2019

The recent rash of rabies cases reported in Oakland County has now spread to domesticated pets, according to the county health division.

A domestic cat living in Birmingham was diagnosed with rabies, according to county officials, making the animal the most recent case of rabies diagnosed locally, along with four bats and 11 skunks. 

Residents were warned by Leigh-Anne Stafford, the health officer for the Oakland County Health Division, to stay away from those animals as well as stray cats and dogs to avoid exposure to the potentially lethal disease.

“People and their pets are urged to avoid encounters with unfamiliar animals and keep pets protected by getting them vaccinated,” said Stafford in a press release. “Rabies is a fatal disease for both humans and pets, and there is no known cure.” 

According to Bill Mullan, the media and communications officer for the Oakland County Executive’s Office, the owner took the cat to a veterinarian when the pet began acting strangely. When it was determined rabies was the cause of the cat’s suffering, it was euthanized. The vet notified the Oakland County Animal Control Division, which notified the Oakland County Health Division. The vet’s diagnosis was later verified by health officials for the state of Michigan.

Bob Gatt, the manager of the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center, said pets should be kept indoors when they’re not outside under supervision, and when going on walks, a leash should be used to limit exposure to wild animals. Outside cats are especially vulnerable, he said.

It’s also important for pet parents to keep their animals vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, for their own protection and to prevent outbreaks of common animal illness in the community.

“All pet owners should follow their personal veterinarian’s advice, but generally, dogs and cats should be vaccinated every year or every three years, depending on how long a vaccine is designed to last, regardless of whether they go outside,” Dr. Beth Grobson, the full-time veterinarian on staff at the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center, said in a press release. 

All people and pets in a household should be taken to a doctor immediately if bitten or scratched by a wild or unknown animal, even if the pet had been vaccinated before. They should also quickly wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. The rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected animals and spreads through bites and rashes. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the signs, symptoms and outcome of rabies in animals can vary, but they are often similar to those in humans: abnormal behavior, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, paralysis, seizures, weakness and even aggression or self-mutilation.  

Call Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at (586) 498-1095.