I feed a feral cat and her litter of 4 5-week old kittens in my backyard. I got a small scratch on my hand which bled for a few minutes and heard it hiss. That's when the mom came and proceeded to lick it. After freaking out for a bit, I decided to go the ER and was given the first dosage of post exposure shots (2 on each arm, and 1 at the site of the scratch).

I didn't go to the ER three days later as I was supposed to. I don't have a way to quarantine all the cats but they do house themselves in a shed. Every so often, I check on them and I don't see any neurological differences, salivation, or any other telltale symptoms like disorientation or aggression. On any of the cats, I don't see any injuries. I'll still continue to observe each of them, especially the one that scratched me which allows me to pet it, as I still have a 1% doubt since it hasn't been 10-14 days since I started observation.

I would continue the vaccinations but money is a concern as well. Also, I looked up a report of rabies cases in my county (Hudson of NJ), and I was very surprised to see that there have only been 5 cases of rabid cats from 1989 to 2016 and only 18 raccoons in the same time frame. It's the only county in NJ to have a total of double digit cases among all reported animals while the other counties were in the several hundreds.

What is the risk vs benefit of getting the next rabies shot?

  • Yeah, you should be freaking out. You've possibly been exposed to a disease with a 100% death rate and you're wasting time watching kittens and looking up rabies stats? The only stat you need to know is that one with the 100% number attached.
    – Carey Gregory
    May 30, 2017 at 22:28
  • You have 2 well-researched, comprehensive answers here. Bottom line is your health. However slim the possibility is, you must complete the rabies prophylaxis course. Everybody in your life needs you. If you need financial resources for medical care, ask. There are organizations that can help with the cost of these vaccines. Best of luck and let us know the outcome.
    – M.Mat
    May 31, 2017 at 3:50

2 Answers 2


Follow your doctor's advice and complete the post-exposure prophylaxis.

Yes, the risk of rabies is low. But the reason that it is treated so seriously is that if you contract rabies it will invariably be fatal.

Even though the kitten is behaving normally now, you cannot be sure at this point that the kitten does not have rabies. If it is rabid, by the time it shows signs it may be too late for you to initiate effective post-exposure prophylaxis.

Additionally, if you complete the vaccine series now and are ever bitten again, you will not have to undergo the immune globulin and entire vaccine series again. If you don't complete the vaccine series this time, you would have to start again with everything should you be bitten again.

Not long ago I saw a case of a cat with rabies, and while we don't come across it often you have to be aware that it is out there.


This cat may be harboring rabies that will be discovered up to 11 months from now, in one rare case 6 years. The typical incubation period for rabies runs 21 to 240 days. Hence, the usual legal 6-month (183 day) quarantine for possible rabies infections in any animals -- that duration is just beyond the peak of this incubation-range curve. A 6-month quarantine is still not safe, it's just "safer". Keep in mind too that giving a wild-harvested cat a rabies-shot does not cure it of rabies if it already has rabies -- nor are rabies-vaccines at all effective on the undeveloped immune systems of kittens. A cat or kitten may or may not show any symptoms of harboring rabies up to the point of its death. Not all animals exhibit the so-called "furious rabies" symptoms during the 2 weeks before death from rabies. 1 out of 5 (~20%) of all rabid animals only exhibit minor symptoms of lethargy, paralysis, or disorientation; called "dumb rabies" or "paralytic rabies".

Thanks to TNR practices and free-roaming cats you are now four times more likely to contract rabies from any cat than any other domesticated animal. This is why even the CDC has issued direct warnings against the use of those failed TNR (trap, neuter, re-abandon) programs anywhere and everywhere: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/zph.12070/abstract

That being said, rabies may be just one of your problems now.

These are just the diseases these invasive species vermin cats have been spreading to humans, not counting the ones they spread to all wildlife. There are no vaccines against many of these, and are in-fact listed as bio-terrorism agents. They include: Afipia felis, Anthrax, Bartonella (Rochalimaea) henselae (Cat-Scratch Disease), Bergeyella (Weeksella) zoohelcum, Campylobacter Infection, Chlamydia psittaci (feline strain), Cowpox, Coxiella burnetti Infection (Q fever), Cryptosporidium Infection, Cutaneous larva migrans, Dermatophytosis, Dipylidium Infection (tapeworm), Hookworm Infection, Leptospira Infection, Giardia, Neisseria canis, Pasteurella multocida, Plague, Poxvirus, Rabies, Rickettsia felis, Ringworm, Salmonella Infection (including the most dangerous new super-strain found only in cats), Scabies, Sporothrix schenckii (Sporotrichosis), Toxocara Infection, Toxoplasmosis, Trichinosis, Visceral larva migrans, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. [Centers for Disease Control, July 2010] Bird-flu (H1N1, H5N1, H7N2), Bovine Tuberculosis, Sarcosporidiosis, Flea-borne Typhus, Tularemia, Rat-Bite Fever, SARS, an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staph aureus (MRSA -- Meticillin-Resistant Staph aureus) "The flesh-eating disease", and Leishmania infantum; can now also be added to CDC's list.

Yes, "The Black Death" (the plague) is alive and well today and being spread by people's cats this time around. Many people have already died from cat-transmitted plague in the USA; all three forms of it transmitted by cats -- septicemic, bubonic, and pneumonic. For a fun read, one of hundreds of cases, Cat-Transmitted Fatal Pneumonic Plague -- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8059908

http://www.abcdcatsvets.org/yersinia-pestis-infection "Recommendations to avoid zoonotic transmission: Cats are considered the most important domestic animal involved in plague transmission to humans, and in endemic areas, outdoor cats may transmit the infection to their owners or to persons caring for sick cats (veterinarians and veterinary nurses)."

  • Spelling out acronyms on first use makes for a better answer.
    – Carey Gregory
    May 30, 2017 at 22:31
  • @Carey Indeed, spelling out the acronyms correctly goes one step further. For reference, TNR stands for trap-neuter-return. For balance, the ASPCA among other organizations endorses TNR (see aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/…). You have provided no evidence here that the number of rabies cases in cats have risen due to TNR programs; rather, eradication of the disease in other species has been more effective. Dogs remain the major vector species for rabies in much of the developing world. May 31, 2017 at 4:54
  • The only "animal welfare" groups and veterinarians that recommend and support any incarnation of this inhumane TNR practice are those that make a quick buck off of exploiting suffering animals in the media to manipulate fools into padding their king-sized ransom bank-accounts. HSUS was fined nearly $16M for engaging in this creation and exploitation of suffering animals to manipulate the public into donating to them, guilty under the RICO anti-racketeering act. ASPCA is next. You can't exploit suffering cats for millions of dollars if you humanely euthanize them first, their only value today May 31, 2017 at 19:50
  • You've kind of gone off the rails a bit with your answer. It was a good answer but your edits took it off topic. The question has nothing to do with TNR, animal welfare, or other zoonotic diseases. I would also quibble with equating MRSA with necrotizing fasciitis ("flesh-eating disease"). Although staph is often the culprit, it's not necessary for them to be drug-resistant to cause necrotizing fasciitis, and half a dozen bacteria other than staph can also cause it, so the two things really aren't one and the same.
    – Carey Gregory
    Jun 1, 2017 at 1:35

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