Attacked by a stray cat:: Cat Zoonotic Diseases Threat?

QUESTION:

I am wondering if I am at risk for developing one of the Cat Zoonotic Diseases - rabies. I have been feeding a stray black female cat for 7 months. Today the cat attacked me unprovoked and this surprised me. She scratched my legs and arms jumping up on me while I was standing. She drew blood on my right leg and arms. I am concerned about rabies being that the attack was unprovoked. I washed the scratches and applied antibiotic ointment to the area. Of note there are no bites. Please advise. Thanking you.


ANSWER:

I'm sorry, I don't mean to scare you, but I have no choice but to advise you to call your doctor or go immediately to the emergency room. Not only was the attack unprovoked (which is very unusual for cats), but also she is a stray and to protect yourself you always have to assume the cat has not been vaccinated against Rabies since you don't know otherwise.

Also, this is a cat that could disappear suddenly and you would never see again. If she died somewhere from rabies, you would never know it. You can't count on watching her for the next 10 days unless you can quarantine her somewhere. If she doesn't show signs of rabies within 10 days, then you are safe. But if you can't find her and she dies, you won't have her body to send to the rabies lab for analysis.

By no means do I feel confident you have been exposed to Rabies. The odds are that you haven't. But that's a chance no one wants to take. Even if the odds were 99 to 1, who wants to be that one?

I advise strongly that you call your doctor or go to the ER. If they feel you could have been exposed, they will treat you appropriately and that could save your life.

You also could call animal control and see if they will come get the cat and quarantine her for the required period. That is another option.

Again, I don't want to frighten you unnecessarily, but you have to be careful. Please seek advice from your doctor and local rabies authorities.

Best to you,
Dr. Neely

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