Two people, one dog exposed to rabid cat in Gibsonton neighborhood

At least one adult, a child, and a family dog were exposed to rabies by a neighborhood cat in Gibsonton, health officials announced Thursday.

The cat lived around East Bay Road and has since tested positive for rabies, according to the Florida Department of Health for Hillsborough County, and officials are searching for anyone else who may have been exposed.

The feline is described as a gray tabby domestic short-hair cat, which recently gave birth to several kittens. The babies will be tested for rabies, the DOH said. The adult and child who were exposed have started receiving vaccines. The dog’s rabies vaccinations were up-to-date, the department said, but the dog received a booster shot as a precaution. The owner was told the dog must be quarantined in the home for 45 days. 

Anyone who believes they were bitten, scratched, or exposed to the rabid cat’s saliva are asked to report the exposure to the DOH in Hillsborough County. The agency said they will notify all homes within a 500-mile radius of where the cat was located.

“This incident serves as a reminder that people should stay away from ‘neighborhood pets’ or any wild animal. Some may be tempted to feed or help the animal, but it isn't worth the risk,” according to a DOH statement.

So far in 2018, five rabid animals were identified in Hillsborough County: three cats, one bat and one raccoon. The latest rabid cat case is the sixth case for the county this year. Thirteen people and two domestic dogs were exposed. Last year, three animals exposed ten people.

DOH offered the following precautions:
- Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.
- If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center at (813) 744-5660.
- Do not handle, feed, or unintentionally attract wild animals with open garbage cans or litter.
- Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home.
- Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly.
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come in contact with people and pets.
- Persons who have been bitten or scratched by wild or domestic animals should seek medical attention and report the injury to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County at (813) 307-8059.