Rabid cat attacks Winter Park couple

Rabies is active in areas of Central Florida

WINTER PARK, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health said that a cat that attacked people in and around Biscayne Drive and Formosa Avenue in Winter Park tested positive for rabies. 

Neighbors said a cat that has been terrorizing their neighborhood bit them on Sunday.

“It just started chomping and it hit me six times and I put it down in a rather forceful way on the ground,” Jeremy Henderson said. 

Henderson said the cat sank it’s sharp teeth into his hand and punctured his wife’s finger while he was trying to prevent the cat from biting his Chihuahuas. 

“When I threw it down it was like it didn’t phase it, I’m not the biggest guy but I’m pretty strong and it bounced and then it ran off,” Henderson said.

To their surprise, after that incident the Hendersons said their neighbors asked if they had seen a stray cat roaming and then shared cellphone video of a cat that resembles the cat that provoked them. 

“The neighbors asked the following morning if I had seen a crazy cat and I said yeah it bit me,” Henderson said. 

The Henderson’s said they are undergoing post-exposure preventative treatment for rabies but are expected to be all right.

Health officials said the cat may have infected other animals in the area of Formosa Avenue and Biscayne Drive. Residents are advised to avoid contact with stray cats and dogs and all wildlife.

Several Central Florida counties have issued rabies alerts after finding animals with the disease, some after attacks.

In January, several people near Maitland were attacked by a rabid otter. A stray kitten in Brevard County also recently tested positive for rabies. Several people in and around Emerald Island Resort near Kissimmee were attacked in January by a coyote with rabies. In Leesburg, a feral cat that tested positive for rabies attacked three people, including a police officer.

Over the last three years, Florida has seen the number of rabies cases rise from about 59 to 110, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The rabies virus can be spread through saliva, and humans may become infected if they are bitten, scratched, or a fresh cut is exposed to the saliva of a rabid animal. The only treatment for human exposure to rabies is rabies specific immune globulin and rabies immunization.  The sooner a person begins treatment the better.

Anyone who has been bitten or scratched by a cat in the rabies alert area of Winter Park should contact Orange County Animal Services at 407-254-9150 and seek medical attention.

Rabies alerts last for 60 days or until further notice from health officials.

The following are steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against rabies:

• Keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all pets.

• Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come in contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the local animal services department.

• Spay or neuter your pets to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or regularly vaccinated.

• 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.