SKOWHEGAN — State and local officials are advising residents to make sure their pets’ vaccinations are up to date following a rabid raccoon’s attack on a cat last week.

A game warden and the local animal control officer captured the two animals after the raccoon attacked the cat on West Front Street, Skowhegan Town Manager John Doucette Jr. said.

The animals then were tested at the Maine Center for Disease Control laboratory.

Dr. Stephen Sears, the state epidemiologist, said there was no human contact with the rabid raccoon. The cat and the raccoon both were euthanized for testing purposes, he said.

Sears said the raccoon tested positive on Friday, so the attack is thought to have happened that day or the day before.

The cat’s test was negative.

“Apparently the raccoon was perhaps living under a porch, or at least was there at the time,” Sears said Tuesday. “The cat was injured; the cat was not acting well at that point.”

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus spread by infected animals through saliva or brain and spinal cord tissue, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control web site. It affects the brain and spinal cord and can be deadly if not treated.

While rabies is rare among humans, infection is still possible if a rabid animal bites or scratches a person or another animal. Rabies is not spread by petting or touching dried saliva, blood, urine or feces of a rabid animal.

In Maine, the most commonly affected animals are skunks, raccoons, bats and foxes, Sears said.

He said his office already has tested 70 animals statewide this year, 11 of which tested positive for rabies. Sears said that of the 11 positive test results this year, four were in Kennebec County, four were in Penobscot, two in Somerset and one in York.

In 2012, 91 animals tested positive for rabies in Maine, most of them in central and southern communities.

Sears said the presence of wild animals in populated areas bordering woodlands or open spaces enables infected animals to come into contact with people and domestic cats and dogs.

“That is what people need to be concerned about. What we always say is let the wild animals be wild,” Sears said. “Stay away from them; make sure your pets are vaccinated; and if an animal is acting inappropriately, if it attacks or acts aggressively, stay away.”

If an animal appears ill or has a “staggering gait,” Sears said,  people who see it should call their local animal control officer. If there is human contact with such an animal, state health officials should be notified immediately, he said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367
[email protected]