A stray kitten found in a West Columbia village has tested positive for rabies, and county health officials are warning residents not to feed or handle any stray cats in the area.
County health officials were putting up notices last week to notify Hickory Ridge residents of the rabid gray tabby kitten that was picked up Sept. 4 by the Office of Animal Control on Sunny Spring.
"This is probably the first cat in a year we've found that has rabies," said Frank Skinner, environmental health bureau director the county Health Department.
Mr. Skinner said the cat acted strangely when it was caught by the Office of Animal Control, who put it to sleep and had it tested for rabies. The kitten was found to have rabies after tests were done early last week.
A large population of stray cats live in the Hickory Ridge area, and a cat that has the rabies infection may not show symptoms, Mr. Skinner said.
"The message we would like to send is to avoid wild animals. You don't always see the drooling saliva. It might come later, if it comes at all."
Rabies is an infection of the central nervous system that can be transmitted to people through the bite of infected raccoons, dogs and cats.
"Rabies is a strange disease in that it can manifest itself in various ways," Mr. Skinner said. "One way, it can make the animal appear lethargic. Another way, it can make them appear very active. Either way, the animal acts strangely from the past."
Residents who have been bitten or scratched by stray cats are urged to call the Health Department at 313-2642. Residents who want stray animals removed should call the Office of Animal Control at 313-2780.