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A Cat, a Bat and Rabies Vaccination Story

"All mammals can contract and carry rabies, however bats are not asymptomatic carriers of the disease. In reality, bats contract rabies far less than other animals. Less than 1/2 of 1% of all bats may contract the disease. A variety of wild animals (rabies vector species) can catch rabies, including foxes, skunks, raccoons, coyotes and bats. Cats and dogs and even livestock can also contract rabies." The BatWorld.org

Saving My Cat From A Possible Bat Bite and Rabies

By Kimberly Roush

I had 4 cats prior to my current cat. I learned early on about cutting back on vaccines - I think I stopped the vaccines around age 3 on my previous cats, and I followed Dr. Pitcairn's homemade raw meat recipes and grain free diets when I could. With my new cat, I wanted to do give him even more of a healthy life. One of the toughest decisions was the rabies vaccine. I got my male from a humane shelter that had only given him 1 5-in-1. I signed a contract to give him a rabies vaccine. Yea, I was off to a good start.

Cat on leash We have a very low incidence of rabies in Utah, only in bats, except one fox this year showed up. Rabies vaccines is required by law for cats in Utah. I did not vaccinate largely at the strong advice of Dr. Marlice Vonght, Dr. Falconer and a few others mentioned on your website, and others not mentioned but who are well known alternative vets. I walk my cat on a leash, he is 1/2 ocicat, and still a great hunter even on lead. (I do not let him catch birds) I have to admit I was nervous - what if he grabbed a bat in the grasses before I could see what he was after?

This summer Sundance was with me in the living room. He then walked into the kitchen, jumped up on the kitchen counter to eat, and I heard him jump down. But, this time he kept jumping. I ran into the kitchen after about 3 jumps and to my horror there was bat lying around. I grabbed Sundance, I had no evidence he had touched the bat or vice versa, but could not prove it. I ran into the bathroom hugging Sundance, "What am I going to do now?"

Cat and Bat My entire concern was saving Sundance. I locked him in the bathroom while I tried to find the bat. I could not find the bat. I kept Sundance by my side or in my arms constantly when I moved him to the bedroom. He was then locked in my bedroom, making sure the bat was not in the bedroom, and we slept with the door closed the entire night. In the morning I found the bat in the kitchen sink, as predicted by the bat websites, who said they will frequently be found near water sources. I also learned from my biologist friends that bats will die of starvation in 3 days if not enough food in your house.

As instructed by the bat international website, I put on heavy gloves, and heavy sweater and took a large yogurt container, put it over the bat which was conveniently resting on the rubbermaid mat. I lifted the mat and dumped the poor bat out the window. I did not want to save the bat as I could not in my panic figure out how to have the bat tested and not have the state know about Sundance not being vaccinated. Having had the bat tested may have saved me from going through the vaccine series but I was only thinking of saving Sundance.

Bat The bat did not immediately fly off. Some guessed this indicated the bat was sick. Others said bats need to launch from a vertical surface and I later saw it trying to climb the side of the house. I did not see it after that. At the urging of a friend, I made the mistake of telling my mainstream vet who said she was going to turn Sundance in to the state. That would mean 6 months of quarantine which I am told costs about $2000.00 a month. I talked her out it, telling her I had listened to Dr. Dym's advice not hers and she was not responsible. If she did try to turn him in I was going to disappear to another country with him. I also told her she was no longer my vet, relieving her of all responsibility.

Dr. Dym said we had no evidence that Sundance and the bat had contact and no reason for a quarantine. I had to go through the rabies vaccine series myself because, after thinking all this through, a day or two prior to finding the bat I had awoken with an unexplained, bloody scratch on my forehead. Sundance does not sleep with me in heat of summer, so the bat could have been upstairs and Sundance, the hunter, would not have known. There have been incidences of people contracting rabies from bats without evidence of bite or barely a scratch. All the doctors I spoke with decided it was safest for me to go through the rabies series. I was quite sick all summer from the vaccine. The shots are not painful, I was sick sick. I seem fine now.

Dr. Dym thought all of this was a mainstream, over-reaction. Thanks to the woman at Brighthaven I found Dr. Diana Bochenski. Dr. Diana is a wonderful homeopathic vet; very kind and wise. We determined how we would handle a 6 month at home quarantine to be very safe. Sundance made it through the quarantine just fine. I on the other hand was extremely stressed and afraid until we got a few months past the bat in the house incidence, when it was less and less likely he would have actually contracted rabies.

After getting started on my own vaccine program, I then quickly researched rabies vaccines for Sundance. Almost all of the highly concerned cat friends, breeders and vets I know recommended the Merial Purevax. The trick was then to find a vet that had the vaccine and, most importantly, I could not mention that he had never been vaccinated for rabies. I did make the mistake of trusting Dr. Hanneman, a well known "alternative" vet who Dym recommended. Henneman's office told me on the phone that they did not vaccinate cats. So I felt safe telling the story. Their response was then that they would have to turn Sundance in. I told them they misled me as they said right up front they do not vaccinate cats, that Sundance did not have contact with the bat, only I possibly did, and I quickly hung up.

I found a vet with the Merial Purevax vaccine, he never asked about the vaccine history, as I walked in with this gorgeous, healthy, highly loved cat that I am sure no one would question if I had "neglected" vaccines. I never felt so happy to have my cat vaccinated. One additional note: my mainstream vet had researched the rabies vaccines once a potential exposure had occurred. She said there had never been an incidence of an animal contracting rabies if they had had at least one rabies vaccine. And, she said there was some evidence that a series of shots after an exposure for an unvaccinated animal may prevent rabies. Dr. Diana and I decided, or betted on our hunch, that the bat and Sundance did not have contact and we stuck to the one vaccine.

I hope this story is helpful to those trying to make decisions on vaccines. The risk of side effects from the vaccines is frightening, but nothing is a scary as the state coming to confiscate your cat and possibly chop off his head. This summer, in Utah, there were at least 3 stories in the news of cats having had some contact with bats that were only overdue for a rabies vaccines. All of the cats were put to sleep as no one was willing to pay for the cost of a 6 month quarantine. I believe over 300 animals in Utah were put to sleep in 2007 because of bat encounters and lack of or late vaccines.

The vets listed on your website are nonchalantly recommending not to vaccinate but one needs to know the cost of a 6 month quarantine in comparison to the risk of vaccinating. And, you know, bats can have rabies, and the horror of contracting rabies could be the worst scenario of all. The guilt I felt for not having protected him from something I could have protected him from (both rabies and the law) so easily was hard to live with. I never would have imagined a bat would have come into my house. During my decision process prior to this incidence, a friend tried to tell me a bat could get into my house. My response, "Yea, sure." We rarely even see bats outside of our house.

Aimee's Rabies Exemption Law I do not know the laws and they vary from state to state. I do not know if some states will accept titers. I know my mainstream vet will accept titers after the first vaccine. But, the law may not. If your animal reacts to a vaccine, a vet can write a letter, and exempt your animal from requiring further vaccination, I believe. I also think it is important to find the safest form of the vaccine. When doing my research it seemed the Pfieffer" vaccine caused the most reactions. Sundance was a bit sleepy the morning after his Merial Purevax vaccine, and that was it. Dr. Diana said that was okay and maybe a good sign. Oh, he did get the sneezes for a week shortly after the shot, but there were many stress factors at the time, I cannot prove a relation to the vaccine.

On a side note, I had a tetanus titer done since I had been so sick from the tetanus shot I had 17 years ago. My titer was high at 12.4 after 17 years!!. You are considered covered with a titer over 3. While it was hard convincing my doctor to do the test, or even finding someone that knew what a titer was, it was well worth it. I also know a breeder that vaccinates with the Merial Purevax every year (I believe it is being licensed as a 3 year vaccine) and she had not had any problems. She will not use certain other vaccine which have caused death in some of her cats. But she is confident with the Merial Purevax rabies vaccine. It was important to note that when I made the decision to vaccinate for rabies the homeopathic vets could not guide me on the safest vaccine to use. One local alternative vets actually claimed there was not difference between the vaccines and she used that Pfieser - what ever the name of the company is - the one I heard is one of the worst for causing problems. Whereas, the mainstream vets doing the vaccines regularly were able to verify they saw a lot fewer problems with that Merial product.

Rabies Challenge ProjectRABIES CHALLENGE PROJECT
The rabies vaccine research project to address the duration of immunity actually conveyed by rabies vaccine will be performed by Dr. Ronald Schultz, Chairman of Pathobiology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.The second phase of the project will finance a study of the adjuvants used in veterinary vaccines, and establish a federal adverse reaction reporting system for rabies and other vaccines.

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