It’s not every day the city issues a rabid kitten alert.
An alert went out this week warning that feral cats and kittens roaming Bensonhurst may have rabies, after city officials captured a rabid raccoon that was seen fighting with some street cats in the neighborhood on Aug. 20.
The city trapped the virulent varmint — which this paper has named Foamy — near 16th Avenue and 78th Street, according to the Department of Health. The news is hitting local feral cat aficionados hard.
“People are in panic,” said Denise Szalaiko, a Bensonhurst resident who neuters and inoculates feral cats with her organization Ferals in Peril. “It was first thing that I heard when my [clock radio] alarm went off — rabid raccoons in Bensonhurst.”
But the cats in neighborhood are better poised to fight off a rabies invasion than others, due to the group’s work said Szalaiko’s husband, Peter.
“We’ve done a lot of trapping in that vicinity,” he said. “And the rabies shot is not optional. People in that area are relatively responsible, and those that maintain small colonies in their backyards have used our services to get them fixed and vaccinated, so I feel pretty comfortable.”
Trappers snip of the tip of feral cats’ left ears to signify they have been fixed and inoculated, and the rabies vaccine typically lasts for about three years — though results may vary, according to information from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
But if any cats caught the virus, it could still spread quickly, because summer is the season for cat love, and feral cats travel far from their home turf to bump fuzzies, Peter said.
“This is the mating season, so males tend to roam looking for female action,” he said. “It’s a very vulnerable time of the year for any disease to spread, so we’re going to be scouring that area looking for cats that aren’t ear-tipped.”
The city is cautioning people to stay away from feral cats and call 311 when they see sick-looking animals. Animal lovers shouldn’t leave food out for strays until the rabies scare dies down the Szalaikos said.
No one knows how raccoons first came to Brooklyn, but theories abound about how the masked menace made it to our humble shores.
And they aren’t just terrorizing Southern Brooklyn. The critters’ frighteningly human-like hands have a strangle hold on Carroll Gardens and their loathsome legions led a Greenwood Heights woman to electrify her fence.
Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system and leads to death if not treated, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Infected animals often salivate excessively and lope around as though they were drunk.
Foamy is the third case of raccoon rabies the city has discovered in Brooklyn this year — the first was at 17th Avenue and 51st Street on April 22, and another was found at E. Fourth Street and Avenue C on April 28, according to the Health Department.
The local community board has lobbied the city to trap and remove raccoons, said CB11 district manager Marnee Elias-Pavia. But the city considers raccoons “wildlife” and typically only traps beasts that pose a public health risk.
The department could not immediately say whether it captured the cats that were tussling with Foamy.