CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mecklenburg County has confirmed this year s first case of rabies in a house pet after animal control officials had to euthanize a 6-week-old kitten earlier this week.

Dr. Margurette Straley with Freedom Animal Hospital said her office alerted authorities after a family from the 28205 ZIP code, which includes Plaza Midwood, brought their kitten in for treatment on May 6.

The family said the kitten hadn t eaten in three days, which Staley said is one of the first noticeable symptoms of the slow-moving and fatal disease. They can t swallow, Straley said, noting the kitten only weighed about two pounds.

The kitten was also erratically flopping side to side, pulling its head back and growling and loudly hissing, Straley said. The symptoms indicated severe neurological dysfunction, which Straley said occurs during the advanced symptoms of rabies.

Once an animal reaches this stage, they are no longer in control and will randomly bite and scratch anything nearby, she said.

Straley contacted Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control, which confirmed that the kitten tested positive. It was the fifth animal to test positive for rabies in Mecklenburg County in 2013.

The family that owned the kitten will have to receive a series of vaccinations, and their small dog has been quarantined.

Melissa Knicely with Charlotte-Mecklenburg animal control said there are usually around 30 reported cases of rabies in the county each year, most commonly showing up in raccoons.

Of the 27 rabies cases reported in 2012, those positive cases included two cats, a dog, a horse and even a deer. Those domestic cases do happen, Knicely said. And those are just the ones that have been reported who knows how many animals are running around with it?

We don t want to scare the public, but people need to take it seriously, she said, reminding pet owners that vaccination is vital.

Out of everything you do for your pet, out of how much you love it, their rabies shot is so critical to keep up to date, she said. If it s even one day out of date, the health department doesn t consider that pet (protected.)

A spokesperson for Mecklenburg County Health Department said anyone who sees abnormal animal behavior should never touch the animal, but call 311 immediately.

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