The rabies race

The alarm “Mad dog!” used to strike terror into people, which is why in the United States laws are passed that mandate rabies vaccinations for all pet dogs. With less fear of rabid cats (and perhaps less community concern for cats in general), cases of rabid dogs declined while cases of rabid cats increased, so that by 1981 there were more rabid cats than rabid dogs in the United States.

All the rabid cats were, of course, unvaccinated. Simply put, cat owners are less likely to have their pets vaccinated than dog owners are, even if their local laws require it. This is risky, especially for the owners of unneutered toms, who are prone to wander looking for females, and thus may come into contact with rabid wild animals. Unless there is a shift in cat owners’ perceptions of the dangers of rabies, cats will continue to be the winners (and ultimately the losers) in the rabies race.
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