Lieberman, Ryan & Forrest, L.L.C.
Somerset County
Hunterdon County

Which animals carry rabies?

 If you are a New Jersey resident who was bitten by a dog, you undoubtedly are concerned about the possibility of the animal being rabid. If it was, you will need to undergo painful anti-rabies treatment.

While dogs may be the first animals that come to mind when you think about rabies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that any mammal can carry rabies. This includes such animals as the following:

  • Domestic animals
  • Exotic pets
  • Wild animals
  • Bats

Domestic animals

In addition to dogs, cats and ferrets also can carry rabies. If you were bitten by any domestic animal, it is vital that it be quarantined for 10 days and observed for signs of rabies. Usually this is accomplished by the owner relinquishing his or her pet to animal control authorities for confinement at a veterinarian facility.

In 2015, only 67 rabid dog cases were reported in the U.S., with 13 of them occurring in Texas, followed by six apiece in Georgia, North Carolina and Oklahoma. By contrast, 244 cases of rabid cats, mostly in eastern states, were reported in the same year, accounting for 58.1 percent of all reported rabies cases in domestic animals.

Exotic pets

Rabies sometimes occurs in exotic pets such as the following:

  • Hamsters
  • Guinea pigs
  • Gerbils
  • Rabbits

If you own an exotic mammal, be aware that giving it a rabies vaccination may reduce its risk of contracting the disease, but is not a guarantee that the risk is eliminated.

Wild animals

Raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes are the wild animals most likely to carry rabies. However, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice and woodchucks also are known to be carriers. The good news is that, according to the CDC, these latter animals have never been known to transmit rabies to humans.


Hawaii is the only state that has no bats. In 2015, 1,704 cases of bat rabies were reported in the other 49 states, accounting for nearly 31 percent of all wildlife rabies cases.

This is general information only. It is not intended to provide legal advice.

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