Greetings and I hope this e-mail reaches you in good health. I apologize in advance for your troubles as my question today is more about myself rather than an animal, although it does have to do with an animal. I am aware this is not a usual case but I hope my case is relevant.
4 months ago I encountered a feral street cat that I approached and petted. The cat had a very relaxed body language and was affectionate, rubbing off my legs and showed no resistance to neither my approach nor my petting. It seemed healthy. Now a few months later I am very worried it might have been rabid. This worry is irrational, as I live in Abu Dhabi where rabies cases are nonexistent. I just have an anxiety about it because of the fatality rates associated with this virus and the bothersome fact that it can have an incubation period for years in humans.
I am also aware about how the transmission works and unless I was bit or there was direct contact to an open wound or the eyes there is no worry for any sort of transmission. What is causing my entire problem is that after petting the cat I rubbed my eye with my hand, which is causing me to worry that the cat's eye fluid may have gotten on my finger tips and subsequently the virus could've made contact with my eye.
I have heard that cats can only transmit this virus well into the latter stages of their illness where the symptoms are apparent. But I cannot confirm this and my ignorance about this topic has troubled me and lead me to seek help from someone like your good self. I have mentioned the situation clearly and accurately. Is there a chance for rabies transmission from a seemingly healthy cat?
Once again Im sorry to trouble you with this question and I hope you can help me. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you so much for your time, effort and dedication.
Dr. Marie replied:
From what you have described it sounds close to impossible for you to have gotten rabies from this feral cat. There are a few reasons why.
The first is the timeframe. Rabies has a very short incubation period. Most animals that are infected with rabies will die within 10 days. I would assume that this is the same for people. Given that it has been four months, you would know by now if you had rabies.
Next, rabies is transmitted by a deep bite wound as the virus resides in saliva. Fluid from the eye would not be likely to transmit rabies.
And the third thing is that we rarely see young kittens transmit rabies. This is because in order for the animal to get rabies they would have had to receive a deep bite wound from a wild animaland in most cases this would be fatal to a young kitten like this.
Still, with all of this said, I am not a human physician. If you are at all worried about your health I would recommend seeing your doctor.
Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.
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Dr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.
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