Curled under a red blanket and barely able to keep his eyes open, Octavius recovered Wednesday from a nasty run-in with a rabid raccoon.
The 15-year-old cat watched birds in his owner’s Trinity backyard Sunday night when the raccoon jumped on him.
"He got beat up really bad," said Linda Fulton, the cat's owner.
The raccoon bit and scratched Octavius, injuring the cat’s back, Fulton said. Multiple neighbors had to intervene to stop the attack. By the time they did, Octavius, who is de-clawed, was bleeding and barely able to stand.
The attack prompted Pasco County health officials to remind residents Wednesday to be mindful of wild and stray animals that carry rabies. The raccoon that injured Octavius was euthanized and tested positive for the disease.
Rabies is a nervous system disease fatal to warm blooded animals and humans. The only treatment for humans is rabies-specific immune globulin and rabies immunization.
Raccoons, bats, foxes and skunks commonly carry the virus, according to health officials. An animal with rabies could infect other wild animals or pets that have not been vaccinated.
"The best way to prevent rabies in your pets is to make sure rabies vaccinations are up to date,” said Mike Napier, county health officer.
Health officials add that all wildlife contact should be avoided, particularly with raccoons, bats, foxes, skunks, otters, bobcats and coyotes.
After the attack, Fulton rushed Octavius to a pet emergency room. She saved herself from having to decide whether to put Octavius down because she’s kept his vaccinations current.
"I couldn't have made that decision," Fulton said.
Since he has diabetes and is an older cat, Octavius is looking at a long recovery. With vet bills exceeding $1,000, Fulton said he’ll no longer be allowed to roam outside.
"They said he's got a long road ahead of him,” Fulton said. “But he is a strong cat.”
STEPS TO PREVENT RABIES
The Florida Department of Health recommends you take the following steps to prevent rabies:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets
- If your pet is bitten by a wild animal or a feral cat, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.
- Do not handle, feed or unintentionally attract wild, feral, or stray animals by leaving pet food outside, or garbage cans open.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
- If you are bitten by any animal seek care promptly. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Go to your family doctor of hospital for medical attention immediately.
- Contact Pasco County Animal Services at (727) 834-3216 , (813) 929-1212 , or (352) 521-5194 to report animal bites or scratches and for information on stray dogs and cats.