MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Officials from the Monongalia County Health Department say a cat attacked two people in the Suncrest area last week. Further, the infected cat has had interaction with other cat colonies.

Both Legion Street residents are going through post-exposure prophylaxis treatment.

Because the cat has interacted with others, state law requires the cats in the Legion Street area to be collected. If there is proof a cat has had the rabies vaccination, there is an option to re-vaccinate, confine and observe for 45-days.

If there is no proof it can be quarantined in a double cage with no human or animal contact for six months at the cost to the pet owner. The remaining option is to euthanize the animal.

Dr. Lee Smith, Monongalia County Health Department executive director and county health officer urges residents not to leave food out for stray pets. Smith speculates that a cat from the outside has come in and fought with others over the food.

“It attracts all kinds of animals,” said Lee. “And the raccoons are just as likely to come into that area smelling the food and free meal and we know that raccoons in the area can sometimes carry rabies.”

Smith said, “Now we have a group of cats that have been very likely exposed to rabies. We have to take the high ground which is we need to protect the public. That’s what we’re sworn to do at the health department.”

“Rabies is spread through saliva,” said Dr. Lee Smith, Monongalia County Health Department executive director and county health officer. “So if the cats are eating out of the same bowl and drinking out of the same water trough, not to mention cat-fighting, the chance of rabies being spread in this colony is really high.”

Smith says the chances of an unprovoked attack while outside is remote, but if it would happen he recommends going to a hospital emergency room.

Smith said, “The reason we say an emergency department as opposed to a doctor’s office or a quick care is because only a hospital pharmacy is going to have the rabies vaccine and the rabies immunoglobulin.”

Those who have outside dogs or cats are asked monitor them and do not allow them to be outside unattended for 45 days.

All cats, dogs and ferrets should be current with the rabies vaccine, Dr. Smith reminds residents it is the law.