Central Florida, USA; you’ve got to keep your domestic cats under direct supervision because of rabies

Florida: Is the fear of rabies transmitted to domestic cats going to drive cat owners to keeping their cats under direct supervision or keep them inside? There’s a report in the UK online news media which describes a small central Florida town being ‘infested with feral felines’. I think the word “infested” is an exaggeration. I hope so. The newspaper refers to Leesburg, Florida.

Bitten and scratched by rabid cat in central Florida
Bitten and scratched by rabid cat in central Florida. Photos from Daily Mail Online – no photographer credited.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

According to the Mail Online, a brown tabby feral cat attacked three people when trying to enter a home. They opened the door of their home and the cat ran inside. One person was bitten on the wrist and another scratched on the leg and the stomach. A police officer was also bitten or scratched. They were taken to a local clinic where they were told that they had to undergo painful rabies injections. These injections can be incredibly expensive by the way.

The cat was trapped, placed under quarantine, euthanised and tested for rabies. The test proved positive we are told by the Lake County Sheriff’s spokesperson, John Herell. A lady who lives across the street to where the incident took place says that there is a problem of roaming cats in the area and that she wants the Lake County Animal Services to get it under control.

The Florida Department Of Health subsequently issued a health alert and provided the following advice:

  • To keep pet rabies vaccinations are up-to-date,
  • To keep cats and dogs under direct supervision to avoid them coming into contact with wild animals,
  • To contact Lake County Sheriff’s Office Animal Enforcement if a pet is bitten by a wild animal and to seek immediate veterinary assistance,
  • To not feed or attract wild animals,
  • To not adopt wild animals or bring them into the home
  • To teach children to never handle unfamiliar animals wild or domestic,
  • And to prevent bats from entering living quarters are occupying spaces in buildings.

I recall some time ago one local authority in Florida discussing various restrictions regarding cat ownership including keeping them inside or limiting the number of cat that a person could own. There is a discussion about regulating cat ownership in Florida but at a low level. I wonder whether this sort of incident may change cat ownership habits in certain parts of Florida. Leesburg is more or less in the middle of Florida, not far from Orlando and it makes me wonder how commonplace this sort of incident is. Is rabies on the increase in Florida? Do we have statistics?

An online newspaper, Click Orlando.com says that the number of rabies cases in Florida is on the rise. There’s been an increase in recent years but the figures are still far behind the late 90s and early 2000s. Two counties in central Florida have originally been issued with rabies alerts. Conclusion: there’s been a recent rise in the number of rabies cases but it appears that the general trend is very much downwards. However, rabies is such a serious disease that the fear of it may alter cat owner attitudes.

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