May 19—A 31-year-old Glynn County man is receiving precautionary rabies shots after he fended off an attack from a rabid feral cat with a child's baseball bat around midmorning Tuesday in the East Beach neighborhood on St. Simons Island.
The man killed the cat with the bat, ending an hour-long standoff in which the aggressive animal held a house painter at bay in the bed of a work truck, the man said.
The Glynn County Health Department received a verbal confirmation late Wednesday afternoon from officials in Waycross that the feral cat had rabies, said Sally Silbermann, spokeswoman for the Coastal Health District.
The cat did not bite or scratch the man, but he told The News on Wednesday that he is taking the advice of health department officials to get the rabies treatment.
The work day for the pool maintenance worker, his co-workers and the painter came to a standstill after encountering the rabid cat on 16th Street on East Beach. The man and a couple of co-workers were surprised to find the painter in the bed of their work truck after returning to the street from a backyard residential pool at around 10 a.m., he said.
"We came out to get some tools from the truck and the guy's on our truck," the man said. "We're like, 'What the heck?' Then we saw the cat under our truck."
The painter had been cornered in the back of the truck for quite a while, the man said. Every time he tried to jump out of the back of the truck, the cat moved to his location and was ready to pounce, the painter explained to the pool workers.
The cat had already chased a dog, then chased the painter into the back of the truck after he tried shooing it with a broom, the man said.
The man had never seen a rabid animal before, but he knew right off the cat likely had rabies.
"He's rabid," the man said. "He's foaming at the mouth and convulsing. We knew something wasn't right with it."
The pool crew called their boss, who called animal control from the main office. And they waited as the hot sun bore down on the truck.
"He's sweating like crazy," the man said of the painter. "We watched that cat for about an hour. I felt bad for him, in the sun in the back of the truck. And there's a lot of tools back there, so he didn't have much room. We couldn't do anything. The situation shut down two job sites."
That is when the man grabbed a nearby child's T-ball bat and a sturdy cardboard box that had contained a pool pump motor he was installing.
"I put the box in front of the cat so that he could not see me, and then I tried to block its view of the guy in the truck," the man said, whose name is being withheld due to medical confidentiality. "I had the bat for protection in case the cat came at me."
When the painter jumped from the truck, the cat went after him. Then the cat saw the man behind the box.
"As the painter ran away, the cat came out," the man said. "It saw me and lunged at me. That's when I hit it with the bat."
The cat died immediately after he struck it, the man said. He did not get blood on him or touch the cat.
He later washed the bat in bleach, the man said. An animal control officer arrived shortly after and took the animal, he said.
County officials, who said the cat was feral, sent it for testing at a facility in Waycross Tuesday afternoon. The county health department received a verbal confirmation of rabies late Wednesday, Silbermann said.
The man later told a county health department official the cat did not bleed after being struck. When the official asked if the cat's saliva may have gone airborne in the encounter, he could not answer.
Once contracted, rabies is extremely lethal.
The soon-to-be father said he is taking no chances. His first shot is expected Friday.
"It was crazy," he said. "But it's not worth the risk. I'm just gonna get the shots."
The Coastal Health District urges residents to avoid contact with wild animals. District officials also urge pet owners to ensure that their animals are vaccinated and that the vaccinations are up to date.
Wild animals such as raccoons, foxes and bats are known carriers of rabies. Aggressiveness, fearlessness in the face of natural enemies and foaming around the mouth all are typical signs of a rabid animal.