Dear Christopher Cat
My neighbor feeds the wild cats that roam our development. I’m worried that one of them will bite her or a neighborhood child and transmit rabies. How concerned should I be?
In 2008, testing confirmed that 294 cats in the U.S. had rabies. Experts agree that, of all domestic animals, cats present the greatest risk of rabies transmission to humans, so you are prudent to be concerned.
In Pennsylvania, my home state, 53 cats tested positive. After Pennsylvania, the states with the most rabies cases were Virginia (34), New York (23) and Maryland (21).
Since 1992, cats have far outnumbered dogs, horses, sheep, goats and other domestic animals in the number of confirmed rabies cases.
Still, only 471 of the 6841 animal rabies cases confirmed in the U.S. during 2008 involved domestic animals. The remaining 93 percent were wild animals, primarily raccoons, bats and skunks.
Your neighbor is at risk, so she should either stop feeding the wild cats or have them vaccinated for rabies. Suggest to her that she have them sterilized at the same time, so the population doesn’t increase.
A local feral cat group or other animal welfare organization can help her find veterinarians willing to vaccinate and sterilize the cats she feeds.