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  • KAREN MCKENZIE

Cats and bats and rabies....oh my!


So, my newbie understanding of blogs is that they are best when based on personal events & insights. When life gives you lemons, make a blog? Let's give this a try. Today I will start sharing a bit about my life & pets.

An unexpected personal event gave me a quick rabies refresher last week.

I have two “indoor” cats. Like many with “indoor” pets, I sometimes want to give them some safe outdoor experiences. In the nice weather they meow at the doors begging to go out. As a compromise, I often allow them out on a second story deck that has no stairs. Outside on this deck, I don’t have to worry about predators, or cat fights. This has always seemed to me to be a purrfect solution... until...

A few nights ago, as I was getting my kids around for bed, I opened the sliding door to the above mentioned deck, and there was a little bat squeaking & flailing at my feet. My cats were most obviously involved. Uh oh. I yelped in surprise & shut the door again quickly. Then my mind started racing. RABIES! (Insert favourite expletives). Bats are the most common carriers of rabies in our area. When did I last vaccinate the cats? Over a year ago, but I used the new 3 year cat rabies vaccine in case I was forgetful in updating every year...phew. When did I last have my rabies protection checked? 2 years ago? Hmm, need to do that again. Must catch bat carefully & test it for rabies.

So I made sure the human & canine family were safely out of the way. Then I carefully caught the bat. Then I emailed the head veterinarian at OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural affaires) about the bat.

OMAFRA responded very promptly, and the bat was sent by purolator to the University of Guelph Animal Health Lab, where it was tested for rabies. I had results the next day, less than 48 hours from finding the bat, to getting results. Quite impressive really. I was also impressed by how quickly I received information, instructions, and answers to my questions. Thanks OMAFRA! The bat was negative for rabies. Phew!

My 5 year old daughter, Amelia, was still awake during the bat event. She asked some very important questions about bats and rabies. Even though they are 5 year old questions, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have some rabies basics in the blog: Rabies will kill you. Rabies will kill cats, dogs, and all other mammals - but not right away. There are excellent vaccines to PREVENT rabies. There is NO CURE or medicine for rabies. Bats carry rabies where we live. Bats have very tiny teeth and it is hard to see if the bat bit the cats. Cats are carnivores and will try to catch (and maybe eat) bats: they are like mice that fly. I do love bats, but I have to put people’s health first. Yes, the bat has to die to be tested for rabies (sorry).

This event was a reminder for me of why “indoor “ pets need rabies vaccines. Bats often come into homes and buildings as well. In just the past year, I have heard in passing, of two businesses in Cobourg with bats inside the building. A quick YouTube search of “cat catches bat”, my husband's first response to the event, reveals this is not an infrequent event. And, as I told Amelia, our family’s health (and your family’s health) are the most important reason to vaccinate against this deadly disease. Our cats sleep in our beds & live in very close contact with us, because we love them. A little preventative medicine keeps those snuggles safe.

I was also reminded to be grateful to live in Ontario Canada where we have a great rabies surveillance and response system in place. In many areas of the world rabies still kills thousands of people every year. Current statistics estimate 50,000-100,000 deaths worldwide from rabies annually.

If you have a bat encounter: try to safely, and humanely catch the bat. Place the bat in a dark box. Contact the public health unit immediately. If you receive prompt rabies vaccinations, you will not become ill.

If your pet has a bat encounter: try to catch the bat. Contact your veterinarian at the Pine Ridge Veterinary Clinic. If your pet receives prompt rabies vaccination, it should not become ill.

Otherwise, leave bats alone and thank them for eating all those pesky insects at night.(I wonder if they eat black flies?....)

Public service announcement complete!

Happy bat season!

Want to read more about rabies: check out

https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951479

https://rabiesalliance.org/index.php/resource/faqs-rabies-english

#rabies

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