In countries where there is rabies, unless you are engaged in TNR work and know the cats and are an experienced feral cat handler, don’t pet stray or feral cats because they are unsocialised. They might become anxious when petted no matter how fond of them you are. No matter how sensitive you are towards them don’t pet them and don’t initiate contact with them because if one of them bites or scratches you the consequences, a rabies alert, can have a negative impact upon both people and cats (is this advice sound?).
A rabies alert has been declared for Jacksonville’s Beaches area. A young woman, Cheyenne Slade, is a cat lover and she saw stray cats in the Atlantic beach area and wanted to go over to them. She started petting one of the cats perched on a fence. Everything was fine until she says the cat clawed and bit her.
“It jumped over the fence, and then it clawed my arm, and then it bit me… It was trying to bite me again.”
Obviously Ms Slade had to take precautions and she saw a doctor who treated her for rabies. She was given about 20 injections she says. Eighteen of the injections were around the bite and the remainder were in other places because her arm was unable to take any more injections.
She also called Animal Control. It is unclear whether they found the cat. I’m not sure even whether it is worth looking for the cat to be perfectly honest but of course they had to try and find this cat.
The issue that I would like to take up is more about the behaviour of Ms Slade than the behaviour of the cat. Of course she likes cats and wanted to go over and interact with one of the stray cats in the Atlantic beach area. I don’t blame her. Unfortunately the cat became anxious and bit her. When that happens the full force of the local authority with respect to rabies has to come into action as a precaution.
But when that happens, when there was a rabies alert over quite a large area, you then get a whole range of secondary issues arising. The first of which is the hazard to human health presented by stray and feral cats. This leads to arguments about eliminating them. And then we have arguments about TNR and its effectiveness et cetera. People become fearful especially for their children. It affects their lives.
The point that I wish to make is this: it is probably unwise to go over to a stray cat in the Jacksonville beach area or any other area for that matter and try and pet the animal. The reason is straightforward: the animal will be unsocialised and therefore quite possibly anxious about being petted. He may accept it but then suddenly turn on you and it doesn’t mean that the cat has rabies. It just means that he is unsocialised. He is not a domestic cat and therefore we have to expect that kind of defensive, aggressive action towards people.
I would bet my bottom dollar that this cat does not have rabies but that is not the point. In the interests of human health and safety the authorities must regard the cat as having rabies and treat the situation accordingly and there are consequences as described when that happens.
I don’t like the consequences because they are at least potentially very negative in respect of cats. These situations can be avoided. It is up to people to avoid the situations because they are in charge.