Jun. 23—MAHANOY CITY — Peggy Sullivan thought the two feral kittens she was feeding were just like the others she'd nurtured for her volunteer group — harmless, helpless, in need of a mother figure.
Little did she know that one of the kittens had rabies.
Sullivan, who lives on the 600 block of East Centre Street in the borough, had discovered the pair of kittens in the yard of an abandoned property near her home.
Drawn to their insistent mewing and crying, Sullivan found the pair without their mother and decided to give them a temporary home.
While Sullivan was feeding the kittens last Monday, one of them bit her finger, leaving a small cut. Sullivan went to an urgent care facility the next day to get the injury treated.
"The doctor down there said to me, 'Please take the cat and have it tested for rabies,' and I laughed at him," Sullivan said. "I thought it was just malnourished."
When Sullivan went to her garage to check on the cats that night, she saw that one of them had died.
Sullivan and her son eventually called Department of Agriculture officials, who instructed them to drop off the dead cat at their facility.
Within 18 hours, they got the results: The cat had rabies.
Shortly afterward, the second kitten died.
"I never would have thought we were going to get an animal that was rabid," Sullivan said.
Sullivan is currently undergoing a series of rabies treatments. She has warned all of the residents on her block about her experience, urging them not to pick up any stray animals.
Sullivan is a member of Save the Strays Schuylkill, which traps and neuters feral cats before returning them to their homes. However, she has decided to put that venture on hold following her latest encounter.
"I no longer trap and release," she said. "I no longer do any trapping because I'm afraid I'll pull sick animals into the yard."
Sullivan said she is worried about others in her community, particularly children, coming into contact with rabid animals and contracting the disease.
"I think people need to be aware it's there," she said.
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