By Stephanie Wolf
LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — On Saturday, the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment announced that a kitten was confirmed to have rabies.
According to a press release, this is the first cat reported to have rabies in Larimer County since the Health Department’s inception in 1968.
The kitten was born on a rural property north of Fort Collins to an unvaccinated barn cat. According to the Health Department, the family took the kitten to a local veterinarian after noticing it was having problems walking with its hind legs over 4th of July holiday. After observing the kitten’s behavior, the veterinarian suspected it had rabies.
On Friday, the kitten was euthanized and sent to the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Lab for testing, where the presence of rabies was confirmed.
On Thursday, the kitten had bitten or scratched several family members — three adults, including the veterinarian who submitted it for testing. Five children were also exposed and have all received rabies vaccinations.
According to Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the Health Department, rabies immunizations are required by city ordinances for all dogs and cats in Larimer County, yet there are many unvaccinnated barn cats in the county.
“The situation clearly demonstrates that leaving barn cats and livestock unvaccinated–especially those in close contact with people–puts family members, friends and animal health professionals at risk of infection,” Dr. LeBailly said.
Dr. LeBailly said additional precautionary measures have been taken. Six other unvaccinated cats found on the property were euthanized, and the family cannot move livestock from the property for 90 days.
With the growing prevalence of rabid skunks along the front range and nearby foothills, Dr. LeBailly stressed the importance for vaccinating domestic animals, saying “unvaccinated pets and livestock could be exposed to rabies almost anywhere throughout the county.”
The Health Department also advocated vaccinations for pets and livestock, adding that it is important to stay up to date on immunizations because it is the best way to protect humans as well as animals from infection.
County residents have been advised by the Larimer County Health Department to stay clear of animals that appear sick or behave strangely. Report any such animals to the Larimer Humane Society Animal Control at (970) 226-3647, #7. Contact a veterinarian if you suspect your pet or livestock of having been exposed to the virus or if they are showing signs of illness or unusual, aggressive behavior.
For more information on rabies or to see maps showing locations where rabid animals have been found in Larimer County, visit the official website of Larimer County or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.