The rabies vaccine is the only legally required vaccine for cats and dogs in Pennsylvania, even those kept entirely indoors must be vaccinated. The vaccine is important to protect both pets and people because rabies is zoonotic, meaning a human can contract it directly from another species.
Pennsylvania records between 400 and 500 cases of rabies every year in wild and domestic animals,
but only tests animals when human exposure is likely. This means more cases exist, they’re simply not documented. The east coast and through the Appalachian Mountains shows particularly high incidences of rabies in cats. On July 28, 2017, a public health notice was published for Philadelphia County stating in that month alone, more cats tested positive for rabies than usually do in an entire year.
If you or your pet is bitten by an unknown or unvaccinated mammal, it is extremely important to immediately contact your doctor or veterinarian. Once clinical signs are present, rabies is considered 100% fatal with only a handful of people through history surviving after showing clinical signs.
For more information about rabies in Pennsylvania, please see the state’s Department of Agriculture website.