Getting the recommended core vaccines RCP
(feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia) and rabies
for your cat can prevent severe consequences for both your cat, for
the animals AND people with whom your cat has contact.
Rhinotracheitis: (herpes virus) and calicivirus are viruses that cause 90% of all upper respiratory infections. Like the herpes virus in humans, cats can be chronic carriers of the virus and recurrent “flare ups” of the virus can occur, most often causing sneezing and eye infections. The vaccination against herpes virus provides reasonable but not complete protection against the virus; the vaccination essentially reduces the severity of the illness and can help reduce the severity of the “flare up” infection that can occur at any time during your cat’s life. This virus does not survive well in the environment, lasting less than 24-36 hours. Transmission of the virus can occur directly from cat-to-cat and by microdroplets in the air after the infected cat sneezes.
Calicivirus causes upper respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, eye infections) and oral disease (a severe gum infection called “stomatitis”). This disease can actually cause more severe signs in older cats than in kittens. The virus can remain stable in the environment for approximately 1 week. The vaccination against calicivirus provides reasonable but not complete protection against the virus.
Panleukopenia is a highly contagious virus and is closely related to the parvo virus that affects dogs. This virus is opportunistic and very stable and resistant. It can survive indoors at room temperature for over a year and also at freezing temperatures. If a cat has an active infection and sheds the virus (which it does by way of all bodily fluids and secretions) the other cats that come in contact with the virus will also be infected. Due to cats’ habit of rubbing up on everything and being very good groomers, it is easy for them to pick up the virus.
Even if your cat is strictly indoor only, they can still get this virus. Humans can bring this virus in on their shoes, hands, and clothing. Additionally, if you have other pets that venture outdoors or other pets visiting your home, they can bring in this virus (as well as other viruses and parasites) and expose your unprotected cats to something that could make them seriously ill or kill them.
Symptoms of panleukopenia include fever, weight loss, diarrhea and vomiting. The virus shuts down the immune system by suppressing white cell production in the bone marrow.
Your unvaccinated cat (even an indoor cat) is probably more likely to get rabies than dogs. Cats are very good hunters, often catching and eating small wildlife that find their way into home. Also, cats in Kent County are not required to be licensed and are therefore less likely to be vaccinated against rabies.
Symptoms that may be associated with rabies are non-specific and may include, shyness, aggression or other behavior changes, fever, inability to swallow, paralysis, increased appetite.
What Happens If Your Unvaccinated Cat Bites A Human?
In the unfortunate event that your cat bites a human, the following protocols will take place:
- * If
your unvaccinated indoor
cat has not had any exposure to rabies (i.e.: no bats in the house)
and then bites a human, the Kent County Health Department mandates a
10-day quarantine, even if your cat seems healthy. Any
illness in the animal during the confinement period or before
release should be evaluated by a veterinarian and reported
immediately to the local public health department.
- * If your unvaccinated cat goes outdoors (cats that go outdoors are considered exposed to rabid animals) or if your unvaccinated indoor cat is exposed to a potentially rabid animal (raccoon, bat, skunk etc.), your cat must either be quarantined at the Kent County Animal Shelter for 6 months and you will be charged a large fine. In some cases, your cat will be euthanized, its head removed and shipped, under refrigeration, for examination by a qualified laboratory. Other animals in the household may also be euthanized depending on what the Health Department mandates.
* In many cases, cats with the rabies virus may not show symptoms of rabies for many months and therefore the Health Department quite often recommends that bite victims should undergo post-exposure vaccinations and treatment.