It’s the story of the cat and the bat in northwest Iowa. There’s a confirmed case of rabies in a bat captured by a cat in Spencer. Doctor Thomas Beall, a veterinarian at the Homestead Small Animal Clinic in Spencer, tells the story.

“Two weeks ago one of my veterinary assistants was woken in the middle in the night by her cat frantically running around her apartment and swatting at a moving object,” Beall says. “She found it was a bat in her apartment and actually one of her cats caught the bat. The bat was trapped in a plastic container and we submitted it to the Iowa State University diagnostic lab. The bat tested positive for rabies.”

The number of rabies cases increases in the spring and summer when hibernating animals are more active.
Dr. Beall says skunks and bats are the most likely carriers of rabies in Iowa. He says bats should never be handled with bare hands and if you find one in your house, it should be taken to a lab for testing to see if it carried rabies into your home or property.

The cat in this story was put down because it was a month overdue for a rabies booster shot and the animal’s owner didn’t want to take any chances that the cat might have contracted rabies. Dr. Beall says domesticated animals, though, rarely carry rabies.

“Vaccines are not 100 percent but the rabies vaccine is a very good vaccine,” Dr. Beall says. “There’s typically around 40,000 human deaths due to rabies worldwide per year, but it’s very rare in the United States and that’s because the rabies vaccine is very effective. Generally, there’s only about 200 to 300 positive cases of rabies in Iowa each year, but 75 percent of those are in wildlife.” Beall says once rabies symptoms appear, the disease is 100 percent fatal.