Trap Neutered and Vaccinated Feral Cat Gets Rabies and Bites Person Trying to Help

A person trying to help a feral cat was bitten by him/her and it transpired that this cat had rabies and had been through the TNR program and had been vaccinated for rabies (TNVR). It raises questions regarding public health, TNVR and how to deal with feral cats.

This is a TNR story which exposes supporters of feral cat trap-neutered-release programs to criticism from people who would prefer to see them killed and eliminated.

I feel that I must write about it because we must look at all aspects of feral cat care both good and bad and see whether improvements can be made. But please click on this LINK to read an answer to the question: are feral cats a health hazard?

The story concerns a feral cat. We know that the cat was feral because he had a tipped ear (the top of his ear had been cut to indicate that he had been through the TNR process). In fact he had been trapped-neutered-vaccinated for rabies and released.

The vaccination for rabies is a one-off event with respect to feral cats. There are no follow-up boosters as is recommended for domestic cats. This is a weakness which has been criticised.

Update 12th June:

See Christine’s comment below (Facebook):

“Please get a copy of the State Dept of Ag report confirming the cat in fact had contracyed rabies. Studies indicate rabies vacconations do in fact provide LIFETIME immunity….”

Further update 13th June:

I have a suspicion that this story may have been planted to undermine TNR. Hillsborough County Veterinary Medical Society has a witch hunt against TNR we are told. There is another article on this site which is also based on a story which undermines TNR and the same people may be behind that.

Also, we do not know who conducted the TNR program with respect to this individual cat. This took place in Hillsborough County, Florida but the people involved in TNR in that area cannot say which organisation or group treated this particular cat. Each month, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay in association with the Pet Resources Centre TNRs and vaccinates hundreds of feral cats.

It’s about keeping records I suppose. It is said that there is little accountability because we don’t know who was involved.

The feral cat would have been vaccinated for rabies and immediately released. As it takes 28 days for the rabies vaccine to take effect there is a 28 day window during which the cat could be bitten by an infected wild animal and become infected himself.

“If you have an animal that’s living in the wild, a feral animal, that was vaccinated and it comes in contact with another animal that has rabies within that 28 day period, it could definitely happen” (Steve Huard-Department Of Health).

Therefore, in an ideal world, feral cats vaccinated for rabies should be held in quarantine the 28 days before being released. That is clearly impractical or I would have thought so.

The argument is that Hillsborough County is risking public safety because they’re putting feral cats back onto the street and they become a potential source of rabies infection to humans.

Huard states that the Department Of Health’s position and recommendations on TNR is not good for public health. This then is the old age problem of how TNR programs are perceived by some as being a public health concern. Of course the counterargument is that TNR gradually eliminates feral cat populations thereby reducing the concern. Killing feral cats does the same thing but less effectively.

However, the former is a slow-moving, humane but long-term solution to the feral cat problem while the latter is perceived as an instant but inhumane remedy. People like quick fixes. The trouble is that when something like this happens the quick fix look better. This then damages the reputation of TNR programs.

Comment: it could be argued that the TNR program is irrelevant in this instance. If this cat had not passed through a TNR program he would have been bitten by a rabid animal in any case and caught the infection. Therefore TNR had no impact on that consequence. However, the critics would say that if the cat had been euthanised he would not have been a carrier of rabies and therefore would not have been a public health concern.

There is also the argument that cats are rarely involved with passing rabies to people. Raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes are the maine carriers. Also in the USA there are just 3 rabies fatalities a year nationwide. The benefit of TNR outweighs the tiny possibility of getting rabies from a feral cat. It should be added that nobody has caught rabies from a cat for the past 40 years. The rabies control programmes in America are excellent. You can read much more about the greatly overhyped human health issues of feral cats on this page.

P.S. I can’t verify that the cat concerned had rabies. I think it needs to be verified because I don’t trust news media especially on these anti-feral cat issues.

Source: Click here

13 thoughts on “Trap Neutered and Vaccinated Feral Cat Gets Rabies and Bites Person Trying to Help”

  1. Whoops, I cannot edit the above comment. The summary of my prior blather:

    Titer tests and vaccination have costs.

    Titer may be more expensive than vaccination, but even if it isn’t it still has a cost, so who would pay for it?

    Vets offering low-cost or pro-bono spay/neuter are unlikely to offer low-cost or pro-bono titer testing along with regular vaccination.

    Caregivers who fail to make the effort to keep their colonies updated on vaccination are a direct harm to the well-being of those cats should one contract the disease and bite a human.

    And how the hell did a person get bitten by that cat anyway? Anyone dealing with colony cats knows better than to disregard handling protocols. Or should. The cat would have been killed immediately because of the bite and the possibility of rabies. Proper handling means chance of being bitten is so small as to be nearly nonexistent.

    • I failed to make my point clear 100% on me. There is enough evidence through tittering pets whose owners are becoming more resistant to just vaccinating that feral cats once vaccinated for rabies probably carry immunity for most of their lives and so rabies is not a real threat.
      Cat haters look for any reason to make feral/stray/outdoor cats legitimate targets instead of neighbors who refuse despite all the resources available to be responsible pet owners and S/N.
      My county does NOT have mandatory S/N and requires only a 15 dollar per animal per year license fee for an intact animal. So where I live it’s perfectly legal to let you cat roam and you don’t even have to get it fixed.

    • I agree. There is a big question mark over how the person got bitten. If fault is to be found it is with the person not the cat.

  2. Mine are trapped for rabies vax as the vax would come due were they domestic cats. I see no reason why none of the pro-bono services offered for ferals will even think to deal with ongoing vaccination. Well, yes I can, it’s not newsworthy enough for the vets who might consider doing it. Titer or not, which makes more sense in handling community cats? You’d have to trap the cat for either. Or both, should the titer indicate the need for a vaccination. So, then. Rabies vaccination each year (or 3, depending on the vaccination offered) or a titer which could require a return visit anyway, by which time the cat has become pretty trap-savvy. Few colony caregivers are educated on the need to maintain updates as they would their domestic cats, and of those nearly none would even connect the vax schedules between feral and domestic. Until the professionals get on board with regular updates, those caregivers will remain blissfully uneducated.

  3. Cat are not prone to attacking humans unless cornered. My neighbors just got cited ( thank you very much taking a bow) for letting their three dogs run at large and none of them had a rabies shot putting the dogs, the owners, their own children and everyone else at risk.
    This is why I am in favor to titers rather than simply revaccinating any pet because you have proof of the anti bodies or not. Who knows how many pets have been given an ineffective vaccine due to mishandling or improper dose. Which is why there is a 10 day quarantine on almost all dog and cat bites.

  4. The lifespan of a feral cat even in a colony in usually limited. Therefore one rabies shot is probably sufficient if you go with the science of using titers to determine resistance to rabies infection. The issue here is the growing feral cat problem. Since no one knows who vaccinated or if the vaccine itself had been stored properly, outdated or given in a sufficient dose. With all these variables an indoor/outdoor cat could have became infected.

    • I have decided that this story might have been made up by anti-TNR campaigners such as the Hillsborough Veterinary Medical Society. I am going to write about that.

  5. Too bad you didn’t read the comments to those FOUR articles on that site.

    Here’s one such example where you could have learned something about reality instead of only what you choose to see:

    “300 tested positive for rabies. But 13,000 unknown exposures per year — that if they were not given shots, could have increased that count of “tested positive” to 13,000 a year (using the humans to verify if the cat was rabid or not). In most cat attacks they cannot find nor trap the animal again, so they have to presume it is rabid. If they don’t, then the human can die from rabies.

    [This comment was amended by Admin. I could have deleted the comment but despite the fact that the person is rude I want to address some of the issues that he mentions.]

    • The fact of the matter is that there are very few cases of humans getting rabies from feral cats. If feral cats were a genuine problem as you state and if feral cats were a genuine hazard to the level that you state then why are there no laws either local or federal which deals with this massive danger to human health and life?

      You love to exaggerate the dangers of feral cats because you love to kill them. By contrast, I like the truth, to look at reality and to see how we can deal with feral cats humanely and decently because we put them there.

      You consistently fail to take a humane approach to dealing with feral cats.To be honest, even your username, of which you have many (and you have many aliases) indicates how arrogant, biased and frankly nasty you are. You cannot state anything without being rude and insulting. It is beyond your capabilities. That is why I have deleted a part of your comment.

      I am sure that the comments that you refer to are written by people like you. People who like to kill feral cats.

    • A little titbit of info:

      There has not been a single case of a human contracting rabies from a cat in the past 40 years in the U.S.


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