Feral cat couldn’t be tested for rabies because the victim shot the cat in the head

Grand Island, Nebraska, USA: a man, Dennis Stoltenberg, was attacked by a feral cat on his property last week. The circumstances of the attack have not been reported. We do know, however, that the cat clamped onto his hand with his jaws and wouldn’t let go causing 50 puncture wounds, some of which punctured the bone in the hand.

Hand showing puncture wounds from cat bite
Hand showing puncture wounds from cat bite. Photo: screenshot from news item video.
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Mr Stoltenberg got the cat off his hand. He then shot the cat in the head. A police officer arrived at his property (July 15). He helped Mr Stoltenberg clean his wounds and suggested that he goes to the hospital to check for rabies and perhaps other infections. He said he wouldn’t go (he did).

Mr Stoltenberg reports that an animal control officer took the cat away. She said that it was going to be sent to the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Centre in Lincoln to test for rabies.


As it happens, Mr Stoltenberg did go to hospital. His wounds were cleaned and x-rays taken. He was treated with five high-strength antibiotics which he is still taking apparently. He was told by his doctor that the Humane Society didn’t have the cat.

At this time, the cat needed to be found in order to follow up on rabies testing. This was important because Mr Stoltenberg wanted to know whether he needed to take prophylactic anti-rabies treatments which are very expensive and painful.

Because the cat couldn’t be found Mr Stoltenberg had to undergo his course of rabies vaccinations and so far he has completed two of the four doses. He is experiencing many side effects including exhaustion, weakness, body aches and nausea. A complication is that Mr Stoltenberg was scheduled for a knee replacement in the not too distant future and he is concerned that that operation may be affected by his rabies treatments.

He has contacted the Humane Society to find out what’s going on but he claims that they were unhelpful. They refused to answer his questions. It has now transpired that the Vet Diagnostic Centre received the cat on July 21. They reported that they couldn’t test for rabies because the gunshot wound to the cat’s head had caused too much brain damage.

These tests depend upon key areas of the brain to be intact and if they are missing you can’t do the test. A test can be done even if the animal has been dead for three days apparently. It is useful if the animal is kept refrigerated.

In a further complication, Mr Stoltenberg has said that he is not convinced that the cat that bit him was the same cat sent to the laboratory. He said that they have not send the picture to him to confirm that it is the same cat. It looks as though he doesn’t trust them.

The stories reported by MSN news from a local newspaper online.

Comment: it is an interesting twist to the usual rabies feral cat story. If, and we are looking retrospectively at this, Mr Stoltenberg had not shot the cat in the brain he would have got his rabies test from the cat which would have resulted him not having to go through a painful and expensive series of rabies treatments.

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