Second rabid cat found in Hamilton; public health advises caution around stray animals

Health officials are warning cat owners after a cat was found with rabies in rural Glanbrook. They're looking for anyone who came into contact with the cat.

Health officials looking for anyone who came into contact with the orange cat in rural Glanbrook

Local officials advise people to vaccinate their pets after now that the second case of rabies in a cat has surfaced in two years. (The Canadian Press)

Hamilton officials have found a dead rabid cat in Glanbrook — and they want to know if you recognize it or came into contact with it.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notified public health on Feb. 6 that the dead cat tested positive for rabies. It's the second Hamilton case of rabies in a cat in less than a year. That hasn't happened in over 20 at least 20 years, the city says in a media release. The other was last summer.

Now local public health officials want to speak with anyone who might have come into contact with it. And they want to remind people that domestic pets can carry the disease.

"This cat was found near some homes," said Susan Harding-Cruz, manager of vector borne disease at Public Health Services.

"So we want to just reinforce the message that stray cats and dogs can have rabies and we want people, to take precautions to avoid contact with unknown animal like strays as well as wild animals like raccoons and skunks."

She noted the cat was found near some homes.

The tabby is an orange adult male. Its area is described as Rymal Road to the north, 5th Line to the south, Fletcher Road and Harrison Road to the east, and Pauline Johnson Road to the west between Sunday, Jan. 22 and Monday, Jan. 30.

Anyone who has lost, abandoned, fed or came into contact with such a cat should call their local health unit to see if they need a rabies post-exposure vaccine. Haldimand-Norfolk and Brant health units are involved in the search too.

If the cat did scratch, bite or otherwise infect someone, that person will likely die without treatment, said  Harding-Cruz.

"It is 100 per cent fatal, generally, unless we can get shots into them to protect them," she said.

Officials attribute this case to the resurgence of raccoon rabies in Hamilton. The CFIA is testing to see if this is that same raccoon strain of rabies. It expects results next week. 

After years without a case in Ontario, rabies has pushed back into the area in a big way since last year. More than 200 rabid animals have been found, including raccoons, skunks and bats.

It will take three to five years to eradicate rabies here, Harding-Cruz said.

Here's how to keep your pets safe:

  • Avoid contact with live or dead animals. This includes raccoons, skunks, bats, and unknown dogs and cats. Don't feed, help, or relocate any wildlife, and don't keep them as pets.
  • Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Keep the vaccinations current. It protects them and prevents spreading rabies to people.
  • Report animal bites and scratches to public health by calling 905-546-CITY (2489). Wash wounds with soap and water, and get medical attention.
  • Report sick, injured, or strange behaving wildlife to City of Hamilton Animal Services. Call 905-546-CITY (2489).