All dogs, cats and ferrets living in Massachusetts are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies. However, less than 30% of Bay State cats are up to date on their rabies shots. Is your cat one of them?

The potential of rabies should be a cause of concern to all of us. Why? Because when the symptoms of this virus appear, it ALWAYS results in death.

Rabies attacks the central nervous system of warm-blooded animals, including humans, cats, and dogs. A bite from an infected animal is the most common way the disease is spread, however, if saliva from a rabid animal gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth, or into an open wound of an unvaccinated cat, they will contract the rabies virus. No scratch or bite is necessary. Moreover, humans can contract the disease in the same way. Merely being licked by a rabid animal can communicate the virus if the saliva reaches an open sore or an open wound, or gets rubbed into the eyes.

Wild animals accounted for 93% of reported cases of rabies in 2000. Raccoons were the most frequently reported rabid species, followed by skunks, bats and foxes. Domestic animals who are allowed to roam unsupervised and have not been vaccinated against rabies, are the most likely to become infected, should they get into a fight with a rabid wild animal, or stray dog or cat.

Rabies cases in cats continue to be more than twice a numerous as those in dogs! (Information from the CDC)

What Can I Do To Reduce My Chance of Getting Rabies?

Be sure to vaccinate your cat and keep it up-to-date. (Even indoor cats need to be vaccinated. What if you came home to find your indoor-only cat playing with a bat or squirrel that somehow got into the house - and then escaped? That's a potential rabies exposure!) Restrict your cat to your house, or walk it on a leash. Make your house and yard unattractive to wild animals. Feed pets inside the house, keep garbage in tightly closed trash cans, cap chimneys, seal off any openings in attics, under porches and in basements. Do not approach or handle wild animals.

The Commonwealth Does It's Part to Help

Each year, cities and towns across Massachusetts hold low-cost rabies vaccination clinics in the Spring. The cost of the vaccination is about $10 per animal. Check with your Town or City Hall for the local place, time and cost. A list of participating towns will be available on the Department of Food and Agriculture's web site, at www.mass.gov/dfa. Help prevent the threat of rabies from entering your home.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a serious disease that is caused by a virus. Each year, it kills more than 50,000 people and millions of animals around the world. 

Is rabies a problem everywhere?

In the United States, rabies has been reported in every state except Hawaii.

Who gets rabies?

Any mammal can get rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, and cats can get rabies. Cattle and humans can also get rabies.  Animals that are not mammals -- such as birds, snakes, and fish -- do not get rabies.

How does an animal get rabies?

A virus causes rabies. An animal gets rabies from saliva, usually from a bite of an animal that has the disease.

How do you know if an animal has rabies?

Animals with rabies may act differently from a healthy animal. Wild animals may move slowly or may act as if they are tame. A pet that is usually friendly may snap at you or may try to bite. Some signs of rabies in animals are:

  • Changes in an animal's behavior
  • General sickness
  • Problems swallowing
  • Increased drooling
  • Aggression

Can rabies be prevented?

Yes! Rabies vaccine and thorough cleaning of the wound can prevent rabies. Clean the bite wound with soap and water and seek immediate medical help.

How can I prevent rabies?

  • It's the law-all cats and dogs must be vaccinated for rabies. Vaccinate your companion animals against rabies.
  • Keep your pets under supervision.
  • Do not handle wild animals. If you see a wild animal or a stray, especially if the animal is acting strangely, call an animal control officer immediately.
  • If an animal does bite you, wash the wound with soap and water for at least 5 minutes. Contact your doctor immediately.
  • Get your pets spayed or neutered. Pets that are fixed are less likely to leave home, become strays, and make more stray animals.
Take the City of Brookline's Rabies Quiz.