MAPLEWOOD, NJ - A rabies clinic held last week was prompted by fears of the disease spreading through stray cats living in Maplewood.

“If a person gets bitten by a raccoon, they would almost certainly seek medical attention, but if a person is bitten by a stray cat they may not realize that the cat may have rabies,” said Maplewood Health Officer Robert Roe.

 “We have had stray cats with rabies in Maplewood, and because of exposure and handling of these cats, about a dozen people have had to undergo the five shot rabies prevention series.”

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He didn’t say how recently the people were treated.

Maplewood’s only free rabies clinic of the year was held on February 26 at the Maplewood Firehouse.

The clinic, which was available to any pet owner in Maplewood, had an attendance of 56 dogs and 31 cats.

 “Very rarely do house pets get rabies,” Roe said. “Stray cats are a larger danger.”

Because of the rabies discovery in raccoons and stray cats, Maplewood began to require cat licensing “about 20 years ago,” according to Roe. However, despite this requirement, he said most cat owners still do not license their cats.

Roe advises Maplewood citizens not to feed any stray cats.

“They (Maplewood citizens) are not doing a kindness (by feeding stray cats) but are instead causing a continuation of the stray cat overpopulation with its nuisance and potential health hazards,” Roe said.

“If you want a cat for a pet, it should be able to be brought into your home and of course get all the appropriate vaccinations. Too many stray cats will kill too many birds and cause an imbalance in the natural ecology.”