The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) confirmed Friday that a cat has tested positive for rabies in Conway. This 10-12 week-old kitten was found on the grounds of the Conway Human Development Center, located at 150 East Siebenmorgan Road.Rabid dogs and cats potentially can transmit rabies in their saliva seven to 10 days before there are any symptoms of rabies. The Arkansas Department of Health wants anyone who may have had contact with this kitten or any other feral kitten or cat to call their physician for evaluation. The Human Development Center is very close to the Towne Center shopping area as well as Hendrix College. Many people feed feral cats with the intent of helping them, but this is not a good practice. They breed, multiply and become a nuisance. Feeding also attracts wild animals, including skunks, to the area. More than likely, this kitten was bitten by a rabid skunk. Arkansas state law requires all dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Anyone feeding feral cats is considered the owner of them and is required to have them vaccinated.According to Susan Weinstein, DVM, state public health veterinarian, failure to vaccinate cats and dogs often has negative results. "Whenever a cat or dog gets rabies, there are always people exposed to the animal, and individuals must have a series of preventive shots so that they do not get rabies," Weinstein said. "This is very expensive and time consuming."In Arkansas, rabies occurs in the wild in skunks and bats. Rabies is a virus that attacks the brain and spinal cord and is a fatal disease. It is most often seen in animals such as skunks, bats and foxes. Cats, dogs, ferrets and livestock can also develop rabies, especially if they are not vaccinated. In 2011, Arkansas had 60 rabies positive animals, including 53 skunks, six bats and one cat. So far in 2012, the state has had 101 skunks, 22 bats, two cows, three dogs, one horse and now one cat test positive for rabies. At 130 rabid animals for the year, the state has more than doubled the normal yearly average of 47 rabid animals. The rabies virus lives in the saliva (spit) and nervous tissues of infected animals and is spread when they bite or scratch. The virus also may be spread if saliva from an infected animal touches broken skin, open wounds or the lining of the mouth, eyes or nose. The first sign of rabies in an animal is usually a change in behavior. Rabid animals may attack people or other animals for no reason, or they may lose their fear of people and seem unnaturally friendly. Staggering, convulsions and paralysis are often present. Dogs sometimes will have paralysis of their jaw and not close their mouth properly. Skunks may be seen out in daylight, which is an unusual behavior for them, or they may get into a dog pen or under a house. Many animals have a marked change in voice pitch, such as a muted or off-key tone. An animal usually dies within one week of demonstrating signs of rabies. Not all rabid animals act in these ways, however, so you should avoid all wild animals -- especially skunks, bats and stray cats and dogs.If you think you have become exposed to an animal with rabies, wash your wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. Contact your physician and county health unit immediately and report the incident. The animal in question should be captured, if possible, without damaging its head or risking further exposure.All dogs and cats in Arkansas are required to be vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. This not only protects the animal, but also acts as a barrier between the wildlife exposures of rabies and people, as our pets are more likely to be exposed to a rabid skunk directly than we are. Children especially should be reminded not to touch wild animals and to stay away from stray pets.If an apparently healthy domesticated dog or cat bites a person, it must be captured, confined and observed daily for 10 days following the bite. If the animal remains healthy during this period of time, it did not transmit rabies at the time of the bite. Since there are not known time intervals for the length of infectivity in other animals, the brain tissue of all wild animals must be tested for rabies if human exposure has occurred. What can you do to protect yourselves against rabies?• Be sure your dogs, cats and ferrets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations• Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals• Keep family pets indoors at night• Bat-proof your home or summer camp in the fall or winter (The majority of human rabies cases are caused by bat bites.)• Encourage children to immediately tell an adult if any animal bites them• Teach children to avoid wildlife, strays and all other animals they do not know wellReport all animal bites or contact with wild animals to the local health unit. Do not let any animal escape that has possibly exposed someone to rabies. Depending on the species, an animal can be observed or tested for rabies in order to avoid the need for rabies treatment. For more information, call the Faulkner County Health Unit at 501-450-4941 or Susan Weinstein, DVM, state public health veterinarian, at 501- 280-4136.