Do Rabid Cats Drink Water? Interesting But Frightening

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Caring for a cat that has been infected with rabies can be incredibly daunting, and, understandably, many animal lovers may be confused and fearful about this situation. There are many signs which indicate rabies as a potential cause, but do rabid cats drink water?

Rabid cats may drink water during the early phases of infection. Rabid cats will often experience throat spasms or paralysis during the last stage of rabies infection. These throat spasms or paralysis will prevent rabid cats from drinking water.

Although rabies is mostly carried and transmitted by wildlife, there are quite a few cases of cats contracting the virus. There are various symptoms of rabies, and the virus itself is quite tricky to identify and control. Stick around to find out how the virus behaves, which symptoms you should be looking out for, and what sort of situation a rabid cat may find itself in regarding water.

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Do rabid cats drink water?

Of course, all cats need to consume water to survive, and a lack thereof can cause even more issues in addition to the troubles caused by rabies. Cats who have contracted rabies may exhibit a wide range of commonly known symptoms, but what is often overlooked is the virus’s effect on the cat’s ability to drink water.

Early on, you will probably still see a rabid cat drinking water because they have not yet experienced the throat spasms or even paralysis in the last stage of the rabies infection.  When the throat spasms / throat paralysis occurs, the rabid cat will be in pain and will not try to drink water.

Rabies effects on body systems

Although this is not a primary symptom of rabies that people watch out for, it still actively affects those infected with the virus, including cats. Since the virus disrupts various aspects of the body, from neurological disorders, brain function, behavioral problems, and a wide range of other body functions, it also affects infected cats’ muscles.

Rabies’ effects includes a variety of awful side effects, in addition to the cat being unable to control different parts of its body. Major repercussions of this effect on the muscles include seizures, staggering, and even paralysis in rabid cats, but it also affects the throat’s muscles. This means that cats will have difficulty swallowing as the throat muscles begin to spasm and seize up, which may inhibit them from drinking water even if they are thirsty.

Rabies effects on the brain

In addition to the muscular spasms that may effectively inhibit the cat from drinking water, the cat may also exhibit unusual behavioral changes. They may also show signs of confusion and disorientation and may act on this state of mind when interacting with others.

This also creates an odd level of fear in the cat, and they often carry this mentality into everything that they do, including basic functions like feeding. Rabid cats frequently exhibit an excessive fear of water, and this fear of water may also inhibit them from drinking and staying hydrated. The fear may be linked to symptoms of fearfulness, in addition to the pain that may come with swallowing.

We talked about if rabid cats drink water, but do feral cats drink water? Read my article on if feral cats drink water and learn the most valuable insights:  Click Here.

How do cats contract rabies?

Rabid Cat

The rabies virus exists in the saliva of the diseased animal, and the virus can be passed on to the cat if they are bitten, where it would transfer straight into the bloodstream of the animal and begin spreading within the new host. Carrier animals mostly include wildlife such as foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bats, skunks, and other animals that roam in the wild. Cats can carry the virus on their claws and fur and may contract it this way since they frequently lick themselves.

Rabies will move along the nerves until it finally reaches the brain. It will then begin disrupting various aspects of the body’s function. These effects will worsen as the virus begins to infest the brain until it eventually becomes inflamed and will be too much for the host’s body to handle.

To learn if stray cats carry rabies, check out my article for the most revealing information:  Click Here.

Does rabies cause dehydration?

Rabies can cause dehydration in addition to other symptoms. While this is not the main symptom to watch out for, it can have increasingly harmful effects on the cat’s health, resulting in its condition worsening faster. Dehydration may also be caused by the cat avoiding water altogether out of fear or due to difficulty swallowing.

What are the first signs of rabies in cats?

Early symptoms of rabies include fever, decreased appetite, vomiting, confusion, and numbness, swelling, or soreness at the site of injury if they have been bitten. Cats in early stages without symptoms may still transmit the virus to others, and numerous phases worsen over time. Widely dilated pupils are commonly observed throughout all stages of the virus to varying degrees, with it being at its worst during the final stages.

It’s important to note that behavioral changes should also be observed, as these can also be indicators of rabies. Increased aggression, irrational fear, or even sudden affectionate behavior, which is unusual for the cat, can be a symptom of the virus. Classic signs of rabies also include the infamous foaming and drooling at the mouth. Sadly, there is no treatment once these symptoms appear.

How long does it take for rabies to show in cats?

It takes time for the cat to begin showing symptoms of the rabies virus, which is why rabies is so hard to spot in time. Cats typically show signs within 3 – 8 weeks of contracting the virus, but in some cases, it can take as little as ten days or as long as a full year – or even longer – to become evident. During this time, it’s still possible for the virus to be transmitted to others.

What are the stages of rabies in cats?

There are three distinct phases of the rabies virus, which will begin shortly after the cat has contracted the virus. While the exact time frame for each of these stages will differ depending on how the virus was transmitted, where on the body the virus was contracted, and the overall health of the cat, the classic indicators for each of these stages will be similar between cases.

Prodromal phase of rabies in cats

The most distinctive indication of rabies during the prodromal phase is mostly behavioral. While there is no specific behavioral pattern that will definitively indicate rabies, anything unusual for the cat may be considered a symptom. This can mean aggressive and violent behavior for an otherwise tame and gentle cat or even overly affectionate behavior for a cat who is otherwise independent and aloof. Such behavioral changes occur in relation to how the rabies virus affects brain function.

Furious stage of rabies in cats

The furious stage of rabies in cats is when the most classic signs of rabies begin to become evident, as the various symptoms will be portrayed. The symptoms showing will depend on the cat as well, as not every case portrays the exact same symptoms to the same degree. The furious stage of rabies in cats can be marked by worsened behavioral changes, where cats are generally aggressive, violent, irritable, nervous, or even inexplicably excited.

During this phase, the cat poses the largest threat to other animals and humans, as they are more infectious, may begin drooling or foaming at the mouth, and are more likely to pass on the virus through biting or scratching. This is also the phase where the muscles will begin to spasm and seize, which will trigger a worsened avoidance of swallowing water.

Paralytic phase of rabies

The paralytic phase is the final phase of the virus, and sadly there is not much time left at this point. For most cats, this phase is reached in as little as seven days after the onset of symptoms, and they will begin having severe seizures, muscle spasms, and may even collapse. The cat will eventually become comatose and will die shortly after.

Can rabies be diagnosed in the early stages?

Sadly, there is no way to diagnose rabies at all while the host is still alive. It takes 3 to 8 weeks for symptoms to present themselves.  Sometimes these symptoms are as simple as a shy cat becoming outgoing.  You might notice the behavior change, but I bet you wouldn’t immediately be thinking rabies is the cause. 

Diagnosing rabies early is hard because the virus will take residence in the host’s brain, which cannot be tampered with without risking severe harm. In most cases, telling symptoms are enough to diagnose a cat with rabies. Scientifically accurate diagnostics can only be done by observing the brain under a microscope after the host has passed away.

How can you prevent rabies infections?

Vaccinations from birth and throughout your pets’ lives are the best way to ensure their safety. Also, preventative measures should always be taken with animals such as strays, feral animals, and wildlife.

Never approach or handle cats that you suspect have rabies, and always ensure that your skin is shielded from them. You need to call animal control if you think a cat has rabies. 

TNR programs are the most effective solution for lowering the risk of rabies in communities, and you may contact your local authorities to discuss TNR programs in your area for even further safety measures.


Video: Rabies in Cats

In conclusion, rabid cats will likely drink water in earlier stages of the rabies virus.  However, by the time the final stage rolls around and a cat’s throat experiences spasms or paralysis, they will not be drinking water anymore.

Thankfully, there are plenty of measures one could take to ensure that your cherished companion does not fall victim to the virus and that you and your family will be safer as well. Always ensure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that you take appropriate steps to prevent infection overall. If you suspect your cat has been bitten or has contracted the virus, seek medical assistance immediately. 

If you enjoyed this article, check out a few others:

  • Do Burmese Cats Like Water? See The Best Reasons:  Click Here.
  • Do American Shorthair Cats Like Water? Complete Truth: Click Here.
  • Do Persian Cats Drink Water? (The Best Answer): Click Here.

Christopher Carlson

I have an Domestic Shorthair Tabby named Charlotte. She is full of energy when she isn't sleeping most of the day. I share what I learn about cats on this site.

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