MATTHEWS, N.C. -- A local family is in agony after a vet says she had to euthanize their 2-year-old cat.

The McKeand family rushed their cat to an emergency vet and hours later, the cat was euthanized. Now they're hoping to keep other families from their pain.

Jill McKeand says her family's 2-year-old orange tabby was more like a dog than a cat.

There wasn't a person that came in to this house that didn't fall in love with him; he was the sweetest cat ever, McKeand recalled.

Her 4 and 6-year-old daughters especially.

They wake up in the morning and say, is he really not coming back? and just this morning, my 4-year-old said, I just miss him, I want to pet him.

In the middle of the night, Jack became ill; the family rushed him to the emergency vet down the street where they were told, he probably got in to something toxic, and McKeand admitted that he does do that, and they were sent home with pain medicine.

But hours later he started to drool and the vet began to suspect rabies.

I was in panic, what do you mean rabies? He had his shot; he's only 2 and he s had one rabies shot. I didn't know there was a missing one in there.

When the vet realized Jack's vaccinations were not up to date, she called the county health department who told her state law gave her no choice but to euthanize Jack, saying too many people had been potentially exposed to rabies.

McKeand says that explanation didn t make sense.

He s never been exposed to rabies; he s never been outside or around another animal.

NBC Charlotte spoke with the rabies officer for the county health department, and he says the law is clear that when a pet has potentially been exposed to rabies, they have to be euthanized so the health department can test for rabies.

McKeand says her family has learned the hard way: pets get vaccinated at four months, and then once more at a year, and that vaccination is good for three years.

The state ran the test and found Jack did not have rabies.

McKeand says her family knew that all along, saying the vet jumped to an incorrect conclusion that cost them their family pet.

It's something she is still trying to help her daughters understand.

I told them he s sick and had to go to heaven.

NBC Charlotte checked with the county and looked over the law. Officials say quarantine was not an option because too many people were potentially exposed to rabies, and rabies is 100-percent fatal.

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