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State Veterinarian Statement on Oakland County Kitten Infected with Rabies

MDARD urges owners to vaccinate their pets and livestock against rabies

LANSING, MI – Today, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) State Veterinarian, Dr. Nora Wineland, DVM, released the following statement due to the detection of rabies in a nine-week-old kitten from Oakland County.

“While this case is unfortunate, it is not unexpected as rabies is regularly detected in Michigan’s wildlife—particularly in bats and skunks. This means the virus is present in the community, making it fundamentally important to vaccinate domestic animals against rabies,” said Dr. Wineland. “Any mammal, including humans, can be infected with rabies. By vaccinating pets and livestock against the virus as well as having them avoid contact with wildlife, it protects both animal health and public health." 

On June 14, 2023, the kitten was found as a stray prior to its diagnosis. It was taken to a veterinary practice to receive an examination. After initially appearing healthy, a few days later, the kitten started to become lethargic, have a decreased appetite, and began vomiting. The kitten developed neurologic signs (including tremors, incoordination, and biting) and was humanely euthanized.

Rabies is a viral disease most commonly transmitted by a rabid animal bite. As of June 28, 2023, a total of 14 rabid animals, including this kitten, have been detected in Michigan. The other cases include eight bats and five skunks that were found in seven different counties throughout the Lower Peninsula.

Even if an animal is kept indoors, keeping their vaccination against the virus up-to-date serves as an important barrier if they are ever exposed to a wild or stray animal that could be carrying the disease. In fact, Michigan law requires ferrets and dogs to be currently vaccinated against rabies. Please contact your veterinarian for more information about rabies vaccination or to schedule an appointment.

Also, if you think your animal may have had contact with rabid wildlife, it is important to immediately contact your veterinarian or MDARD at 800-292-3939 to determine the next steps to take.

If you are a veterinarian, remember to always consider rabies as a potential diagnosis for neurologic animals. Rabies test kits and submittal forms are available through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Also, in Michigan, rabies is reportable to the State Veterinarian’s Office.

For more information on rabies, please visit