An update to this story, reflecting the second reported case of a rabid cat turned out to be false, can be found at this link.
LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — A Lancaster County animal welfare group says a feral cat tested positive for rabies on Tuesday, marking the second such case in less than two weeks.
According to Connie Kondravy with the Organization for Responsible Care of Animals (ORCA), the cat was collected in Mount Joy this week, after it bit a woman who had allowed the sick animal into her home. When ORCA staff was unable to respond to the home immediately, Kondravy says the woman called police, who shot the cat. The dead animal was recovered from beneath a deck attached to the home and sent to a lab.
“It came back positive this morning,” said Kondravy. “So now, in less than ten days, we’ve had two rabid cats in at least a general, huge area of Lancaster County.”
Last week, a different feral cat was collected from the area of Buttonwood Drive in Elizabethtown. According to Kondravy, that cat had obvious wounds from a possible encounter with another rabid animal. The cat tested positive for rabies, which Kondravy says is the “first time in my 33 years here” that a rabid animal had been present inside the facility on East Orange Street. The animal did not come into contact with any other animals.
Kondravy says as a precaution, both the staff member who was exposed to the cat in Elizabethtown and the woman in Mount Joy are receiving precautionary treatments for rabies.
In the Mount Joy incident, ORCA staff attempted to warn the woman not to handle the ill cat and instructed her to cover it with a box or laundry basket until help arrived. Kondravy says the woman did not heed the warnings, was bitten, and called police.
“She was a little dissatisfied with the fact that we weren’t coming instantly, so she called police,” adds Kondravy. “And I tried to appeal to the fact that the most important thing of this whole situation is, what if there were other people, especially children out there, who have handled these cats?”
Kondravy says she has spent years trying to convince local and county governments to address the growing problems with feral cats, to little avail. She is hoping the rabies cases will raise awareness, and convince more animal welfare agencies like hers to share resources.
For now, the more immediate concern is educating people not to interact with feral cats, no matter how much sympathy an ailing or injured animal can evoke.
“Don’t touch it,” says Kondravy. “Put a box, a basket, a wash basket, a tub, your trash can over it. Will the cat run? Probably so, but if it is truly sick or injured, it’s probably going to just lie there and let you do that. And then call us.”
ORCA has a 24-hour hotline to assist with sick or injured animals in Lancaster County. Call (717) 397-8922.