The threat of rabies seems like a distant memory for the collective human race who lives mostly in cities and suburban tract homes, but rabies hasn't gone anywhere. It still still capable of infected folks, one weird-acting animal at a time.
When I was about 3, we came home from a family vacation at our summer house. I wandered over to our house and saw a huge rat up against the wall. I squatted down and pet it and called it a kitty.
My father, realizing it wasn't in a rat's nature to be passive like that, pulled me away and had my brother take me inside. I was crying, I didn't know what was wrong. Next thing I saw out the window was the ax raising over dad's head as he killed it. I put my face into my brother's side and cried and screamed. I wasn't sure why, but it seemed like my kind father just became a murderer.
What he had become was a protector.
Rabies is a viral infection that can come from the bite of an animal contagious with it. It most often strikes bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes in the outdoors. As citizens with pets, we show proof of rabies shots for our animals. If your neighbor's dog bites you, they can produce the paperwork to help you avoid getting a painful series of rabies shots. But, out in nature, there is no way to verify if an animal that attacked you was infected or not.
We tend to think in terms of the fantastically spine-tingling movie "Cujo" as to what a rabies infected animal might be like. It was a fantastic theatrical portrayal, as the paralyzing of swallowing muscles tends to make them drool and seizing makes them foam at the mouth.
It may take 1-3 months for the animal to show signs as it spreads through the nervous system. Then, some changes in behavior, like a change in the tone of the dog's bark, biting at the site where they were bitten, not eating.
The second phase lasts only a couple days with "mad dog" behavior. The dog might attack anything that moves or bite at a cage to the point of breaking its teeth. In the movie "Cujo" you really saw this portrayed as it tried to rip the car apart while the mother and child cowered helplessly.
Three women in Connecticut were attacked a rabid bobcat.
(LINK) Authorities say a bobcat that jumped on a Connecticut woman and scratched two others who were trying to help her has tested positive for rabies.
The attack happened Tuesday in a greenhouse in Colchester. The bobcat was then shot and killed.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says it’s rare for bobcats to attack people, but when they do, rabies is often the cause.
When you realize the scope of what rabies does to humans, you can understand why having pets vaccinated is so critical, especially when pets that go outside can meet up with rabid bats, feral dogs, raccoons and other creatures and be attacked.
Here's some movies that contain animals attacking -
To Kill a Mockingbird
Devil Dog: Hound From Hell
Day of the Animals
Food of the Gods
Perhaps "Cujo" remains so very unsettling because it is too close to real-life.