ALPHARETTA, Ga. — An attempt to temporarily stun a suspected rabid cat with pepper spray Nov. 19 backfired after the feline instead ran away.
Police responded to a call from a business security guard at Great Oaks Way who reported that employees and guests were being chased by an aggressive cat in their parking lot.
Officers said the cat might have been rabid.
“Since we had an officer bit and injured by a feral cat earlier this year, they planned to temporarily stun the cat with pepper spray while waiting for animal control or a catchpole to be delivered and safely remove it from the area,” said Sgt. Howard Miller. “This was the officer’s attempt to keep the cat contained in the area. Pepper spray typically causes an involuntary closing of the eyes, so the thought was to use the spray to stun it so it would stay put.”
Once police sprayed the cat, however, an officer accidentally walked through the cloud and was slightly affected, Miller said.
While police were unable to provide exact numbers, the department confirmed that it has dealt with rabies cases in the past.
“Typically with rabid animals, we’ll put the animal down with our firearm,” Miller said. “In this case with the cat, the location was in a business parking lot and not safe to discharge a firearm. That is why they waited so long for the catchpole. Unfortunately, the cat did manage to escape into the storm drain.”
Animal control did eventually arrive but was unable to locate the cat.
Because there was no property damage or injuries, no incident report was filed.
There was at least one report that a person at the location was upset about how the incident was handled.
Rabies is a fatal viral disease spread by an infected animal’s saliva usually through a bite. Drooling and foaming at the mouth is not a reliable indicator of a rabid animal, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, because such symptoms may occur only at the last stages of the disease or may never manifest at all.
Signs of a rabid animal may include restlessness, aggression, difficulty walking, appearing overly friendly, inability to swallow or hydrophobia.