In one southwest Bakersfield neighborhood, a bat show goes on every night.
“About 7:15, the bats decide to take flight and leave, and all the neighbors come out and people come over and watch,” said Christine Veteto, who says bats swarm her home.
She says she sees up to 700 bats on her rooftop nightly, so she was not surprised when her next door neighbor's cat got rabies then turned on its family.
“The cats hop on my roof sometimes,” Veteto said. "A cat will pick a bat up and eat it, that's how it happens."
Her neighbor’s cat violently attacked several members of the household. The cat was taken to the Kern County Health Department’s lab Thursday night, where it tested positive for rabies. Health officials euthanized the cat.
The department went door to door in the neighborhood Friday morning to alert residents that their neighbor's cat had rabies and attacked its owners. Health officials also pulled together a last minute news conference in the afternoon to discuss the health risks.
“We have not had a positive rabies count in the county for many years, even decades," said Matt Constantine, Director of Public Health. “We want people to know this is a unique occurrence that’s very serious.”
He was joined by members of several local agencies including Animal Control, veterinarians and Bakersfield police.
“Rabies, untreated, are serious and can kill,” said Dr. Claudia Jonah, Public Health Officer. “You can’t wait to get your pets vaccinated. Get them checked out and updated now.”
She says early symptoms of rabies in people can include irritability, headache, fever and sometimes itching or pain at the site of exposure.
Veteto says she feels bad her neighbor’s cat is gone. "It was a sweet, sweet animal and it was their daughter's, so it's not cool."
The family attacked by its rabid cat is being treated.
If you think you've come into contact with a rabid animal, call the Public Health Department at 321-3000.