This really has little to do with mad dogs and Englishmen, but bear with me. There is a sort of a connection.
Yesterday, the neighborhood cat came to our patio door to taunt and torture our cats and I did a foolish thing. I reached down to stop our “Devil Cat” from rushing the screen and he bit me! Good. His canine tooth sank into the skin of my palm right below my thumb. A couple of other teeth did less damage. I washed and soaked and slathered the wounds with antibiotic cream and bandaged them. Today I’ll call my doctor’s office. My hand hurts and I’m running a low grade fever but other than that, I’m not worried. My cat is current on his rabies shots and, being an indoor cat, he is never exposed to rabid animals anyway. And even if my cat had rabies, at least there is a (reputedly unpleasant) cure.
It certainly was not so in Regency England, though.
Rabies was described as early as 2300 B.C. in Babylonia. In 800-700 B.C. Homer describes Hector as being like a “raging dog.” Four hundred years later Aristotle describes dogs as suffering from a madness that is contagious and fatal to other animals who are bitten. As time goes on, rabies is mentioned all over Europe and Russia and first appears in the British Isles in 1026 A.D.
In the mid 1700s, a serious outbreak of rabies swept London. All dogs were ordered confined for one month and a reward of 2 shillings for killing dogs on the streets led to a carnage.
It wasn’t until 1804 that a German scientist demonstrated that rabies was transmitted through the saliva of mad animals, and finally in 1885 Louis Pasteur cured the first patient with his newly invented vaccine.
Nothing in the history of rabies mentioned rabid cats. Probably another way cats feel themselves superior to dogs.
I’ll let you know what happens at the doctor. Have you ever been bit by an animal? Tell us your story.