Cat in Front Royal tested positive for rabies

A cat that was reported acting strangely around 22 West Duck St. in Front Royal has tested positive for rabies.

A news release from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office said someone complained on July 26 about  “a cat was chasing people and acting aggressively.” On Thursday, test results from the cat came back positive for rabies.

Colin Greene, the director of the Lord Fairfax Health District, said that there were no signs that anyone had been bitten, saying that was likely the reason why it took two weeks for test results to come in for the cat.

“Had there been an exposure, there would have been a much greater, more urgent need for testing,” Greene said.

That contrasted from a recent set of incidents in Maurertown, where a rabid cat reportedly bit four people. The string of reported attacks all occurred on a Friday; test results there came back the following Monday.

“In fact, the only reason it took us three or four days to get those (results in Maurertown back) was because there was a weekend in the way,” Greene said. “If there had been an actual attack (in the case of Front Royal), we’d have turned it around quickly.”

Following the complaint, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control unit confined the cat and sent it to the Humane Society of Warren County, which quarantined it. Two days later, the cat showed obvious signs of rabies and was euthanized, according to the news release from the  Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment, forwarding any questions to the Warren County Health Department, which is part of the Lord Fairfax Health District.

After receiving a report, Greene said, the health district’s environmental health specialist investigates it.

“The people who had picked up the cat specifically said that no one had been scratched or bitten that we’re aware of,” Greene said.

Greene said that the cat was a stray brown tabby. Anyone who was bitten by a cat matching that description between July 18 and July 26 should go to the emergency room to receive treatment, he said.

It is possible that the cat spread rabies to other cats in the area, Greene said.

He added that feral cat colonies have a high risk of spreading the disease and urged people not to feed cats in those colonies and not to touch wild animals.

“What seems like doing the animal a favor is essentially just supporting a colony of animals that is not really in a healthy situation and is likely to spread disease amongst them and potentially spread it to other healthy animals and also to people,” Greene said.