Porky and Buddy: Why does my cat need a rabies shot?

Dear Porky & Buddy,

I took my cat, Sylvester, in for his shots the other day and my vet said he needed to have a rabies shot.  

Excuse me . . . Sylvester doesn’t go outside — why should I expose him to the risk of a rabies shot if he is not in any danger?

Jon

Dear Jon,

Short answer: rabies vaccines are required by New York law for all cats and dogs over the age of six months. (There is an exception if your vet certifies that the vaccination is a health risk for a pet, but that’s another column.) 

You can be fined up to $200 for failure to comply.   

But let’s suppose you are not afraid of being a rabies “outlaw” of some sort.   What’s the harm?

Hard answer: Sylvester, (even assuming he really does always stay indoors and you are not delusional about that) could die.    

First he could be bitten by a wild animal that sneaks into your house, most commonly a  rabid bat. There’s also always the chance, however small, that Sylvester might sneak outdoors through an open window or door and come into contact with a rabid animal and you might not even know.   

Why would you want to worry about that?

Rabies is a 100 percent fatal disease for people or any animal exposed through a bite or scratch to the saliva of a rabid animal, so extra precautions are totally justified. 

There is an expensive and painful series of preventative shots that humans can receive to prevent disease after exposure to a rabid animal, but no similar preventative protection exists for unvaccinated animals. 

If, however, Sylvester was up-to-date on his rabies vaccination and then exposed to a rabid animal, he would simply get a rabies booster and a 10- to 45-day quarantine at home.

And what if Sylvester is not vaccinated and bites someone? You may think he is perfect, but even calm indoor cats bite when they are frightened by new people or places or loud obnoxious children. 

Bite wounds treated by a physician must be reported to the health department, which may then request proof of a rabies vaccination. 

If you can’t provide this proof, there may be a fine for having an unvaccinated animal, but, much worse, a recommendation that Sylvester be euthanized and tested for rabies, especially if  he was showing any signs of illness.

These measures may seem harsh, but remember that once the signs appear, there is no effective treatment for rabies.

So quit complaining and get him vaccinated for crying out loud. The risks of skipping rabies vaccinations are just too awful.

Here’s the good news. If cost is an issue for you, the Oswego County Health Department conducts monthly rabies clinics for both dogs and cats on a schedule that covers the whole county.  

You can check what clinics are coming up at the Humane Society’s website at oswegohumane.org/news or just call the Health Department at 349-3545.  

There is a suggested donation of $5 per pet but that is up to you. So get it done and we can all relax.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. 

The office is located at 265 W. First St., Oswego. Phone is 207-1070. Email is ochscontact@hotmail.com. Website is oswegohumane.org.

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