Otter Tail County Kitten Confirmed Positive for Rabies

Publish Date

On April 21, 2024, the owner of an Otter Tail County farm noticed a wound on the front left leg of her unvaccinated outdoor kitten. The kitten was euthanized for testing on April 23. The remains were submitted to the North Dakota State University Diagnostic Laboratory, where they were confirmed positive for the rabies virus on April 29.

The owner smelled a skunk around the property in early April. The kitten smelled strongly of skunk at that time. Since nearly half of all Minnesota skunks tested for rabies are diagnosed with the virus, a skunk bite is likely how the kitten contracted rabies. Skunks are often seen near outdoor food sources, especially cat food, which stresses the importance of keeping food out of the reach of wildlife.

The property is home to several horses, donkeys and a dog that were previously vaccinated against rabies and given boosters shortly after the kitten was submitted to the lab. The Minnesota Board of Animal Health advised that these animals be confined to the property for a 45-day observation period. There were six unvaccinated cats on the property, four of which were trapped and euthanized, including the mother of the rabid kitten. Several injured cats were also euthanized due to their risk of exposure to either the kitten or a skunk. The owner has been advised to observe the remaining feral cats for 180 days if they cannot be captured and to report any changes in their health or behavior. Although they were not seen with the kitten, these cats frequented the same barn as the kitten. Vaccinations for the cats were strongly recommended.

The Minnesota Department of health spoke with the owners to assess risk to people on the farm. The owner and child had physical contact with the cat prior to its death and are receiving post-exposure treatment.

Find information on rabies in animals and view a map of positive cases in Minnesota on the Board’s website.

If you have questions about suspected or confirmed rabies exposure to domestic animals, call 651-201-6808.

If you have questions concerning rabies exposure in people, please contact the Minnesota Department of Health at 651-201-5414.

All dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses should be currently vaccinated against the rabies virus. In the event an animal is exposed or potentially exposed, pets should receive a rabies vaccination booster within 72 hours of exposure.