Overview: Rabies virus belongs to the genus Lyssavirus, together with European bat lyssaviruses 1 and 2. In clinical practice, rabies virus is easily inactivated by detergent-based disinfectants.
Infection: Rabid animals are the only source of infection. Virus is shed in the saliva some days before the onset of clinical signs and transmitted through a bite or a scratch to the skin or mucous membranes. The average incubation period in cats is 2 months, but may vary from 2 weeks to several months, or even years.
Disease signs: Any unexplained aggressive behaviour or sudden behavioural change in cats must be considered suspicious. Two disease manifestations have been identified in cats: the furious and the dumb form. Death occurs after a clinical course of 1-10 days.
Diagnosis: A definitive rabies diagnosis is obtained by post-mortem laboratory investigation. However, serological tests are used for post-vaccinal control, especially in the context of international movements.
Disease management: Post-exposure vaccination of cats depends on the national public health regulations, and is forbidden in many countries.
Vaccination recommendations: A single rabies vaccination induces a long-lasting immunity. Kittens should be vaccinated at 12-16 weeks of age to avoid interference from maternally derived antibodies and revaccinated 1 year later. Although some vaccines protect against virulent rabies virus challenge for 3 years or more, national or local legislation may call for annual boosters.