New Jersey

Rabid Kitten Attended Thanksgiving Party, Exposed More Than a Dozen in NJ: Health Officials

Some of the party guests were reportedly scratched and licked by the cat

What to Know

  • A rabid kitten exposed more than a dozen people to rabies in three New Jersey counties, health officials warn
  • The kitten was adopted on Nov. 12 and its owner took it to a school, hospital and a Thanksgiving party
  • The cat was euthanized this week and the owner is receiving post-exposure treatment

A rabid kitten exposed more than a dozen people in three New Jersey counties to rabies after going to a hospital and school and attending a Thanksgiving party, health officials say.

The New Jersey Department of Health issued a warning Thursday to people who may have come in contact with the rabid kitten between Nov. 13 and Nov. 23.

The person who adopted the stray cat in Edison on Nov. 12 started receiving post-exposure rabies treatment on Nov. 28 after coming into contact with the feline’s saliva, health officials say.

Over the course of about a week, the cat’s newfound owner took it to school classes, a hospital and a Thanksgiving party, exposing it to multiple people, according to officials.

The cat was taken to Branford Hall Career Institute in Hamilton Township from Nov. 13 through Nov. 16, when it’s believed two classmates were exposed.

Then, on either Nov. 13 or Nov. 14, the owner took the cat to a Middlesex County hospital to be looked at while he or she was at work. The kitten was in a cat carrier and it’s not believed anyone at the hospital was exposed. 

On Nov. 17, the owner took the cat to a Thanksgiving party in Old Bridge, where about a dozen people had close contact with the kitten. Some of the guests were reportedly scratched and licked by the cat, health officials say.

A few days later, on Nov. 23, the cat stopped eating, became fatigued and started showing signs of rabies infection. It was taken to a veterinary facility, where it was euthanized on Nov. 26.

Local health departments are working to figure out how many people and animals were possibly exposed to the rabid cat.

Anyone who may have been exposed should consult a medical provider right away. Treatment is 100 percent effective in humans if caught early, but the disease is deadly if not treated.

The virus that causes rabies is found in the saliva of a rabid animal and is transmitted by a bite, scratch or contact with infected saliva via an open cut or wound.

Symptoms of rabies include fever, pain at the site of the bite, lethargy, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can develop anywhere from 12 days to six months after a bite. Left untreated, rabies attacks the nervous system and causes death.

Rabies occurs most often in wildlife like raccoons, bats, skunks, groundhogs, foxes, stray cats and bats. Health officials warn people to avoid wild animals and to keep their pets on leashes when outdoors.

State Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Colin Campbell said cats account for 85 percent of the cases of rabies in domestic animals because many roam free and are usually not vaccinated against the disease.

A chart of New Jersey animal rabies cases by county and species is available here, and a rabies Frequently Asked Questions page is available here.

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