(KLIX) – You could call it Cujo, if you’d like – but it’s not a dog.

Rather, a domestic cat in Owyhee County has tested positive for rabies, public health officials said on Wednesday. It is the first rabid cat detected in Idaho in almost 30 years.

The last time testing confirmed a cat had rabies in the Gem State was in 1992, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW). It also is the first rabid animal found in Owyhee County this year.

The department said in a news release that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the cat was infected with a strain of rabies virus associated with bats.

“Rabies, a virtually 100 percent fatal infection in people and animals, can affect our pets, putting the risk of this deadly disease right at our doorstep,” Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, state public health veterinarian for IDHW, said in a statement. “Although most bats do not have rabies, it is likely that the cat was exposed to a rabid bat, thus contracting the infection.”

Health officials said most bats do not have rabies, but infected bats are the main source of rabies exposures in Idaho. Falls cooler months often bring bats closer to people and their pets, the department said, because many bats begin migrating to warmer climates.

So far this year, 10 bats have been reported in areas across the state.

“This is a stark reminder that rabies is present in Idaho. Owners are encouraged to vaccinate their dogs, cats, ferrets, and horses. Sometimes cats are overlooked when it comes to vaccination; whether they are barn cats or strictly indoor cats, they should all be vaccinated against rabies as bats often find their way into barns, outbuildings, and homes.”

IDHW offers a number of tips to help keep yourself, your family and your pets safe from bat bites:

  • Keep your pets’ rabies vaccinations up-to-date. Pets may encounter bats outdoors and in the home. Rabies vaccination is also a routine recommendation to protect horses.
  • Talk to your veterinarian if your pet suddenly begins acting strangely; rabies is just one of many possible reasons for a behavior change.
  • Do not touch a bat with your bare hands.
  • Avoid bats to the best of your ability. If you have had an encounter with a bat (bite or scratch), seek medical attention immediately.
  • If you believe you were bitten or scratched by a bat, save the bat in a container without touching it and contact your public health district to ask about testing the bat for rabies.
  • Bat-proof your home or cabin appropriately. To learn more about the best way to bat proof homes: https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/mmedia-education/bats-in-buildings

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