The Allentown Health Bureau is warning residents after two stray cats in Lehigh County, including one in the city, tested positive for rabies.

Health Bureau investigators say they've identified 19 people, including 11 from one family, who had been exposed to the rabid cats and asked that each of them undergo a series of post-exposure vaccinations and is under medical care.

Associate Director of Health Jeff Stout said it's rare to find rabies in domestic animals. However he said feral cats out in the woods can come into contact with wild animals like skunks or raccoons.

"Feral cats are typically very unapproachable," he said. "But because some people are animal lovers they will attempt to befriend a stray cat and this is just an example of what can go wrong."

The two cats were taken to the Lehigh County Humane Society and then sent for rabies testing at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories. The cats had been aggressive, biting and scratching people who had handled them, he said.

The first cat was found last month, picked up along Vera Cruz Road in southern Lehigh County, he said. The cat was taken to the humane society where it became aggressive with the staff. Stout said the cat was euthanized and tested positive for rabies on Nov. 20.

The person who found the cat and seven people at the humane society were exposed, he said. A second cat was found on Baker Drive in south Allentown and taken in by a family of 11, Stout said. After a few days, the cat became aggressive and bit and scratched several members of the family, he said.

The cat was also taken to be tested and results on Wednesday returned as positive for rabies, Stout said. The specific breed and color of the cats was not disclosed.

Stout urged residents to never feed or touch stray or wild animals, and keep their pets' rabies vaccinations up to date through a licensed veterinarian. In addition, these basic precautions can prevent the spread of rabies:

?Vaccinate your pets against rabies. Rabies shots need to be boosted, so check your pet's records or talk to your veterinarian

?When walking or hiking with your dog, protect them and wildlife by keeping your dog on a leash

?Keep cats and other pets inside to reduce the risk of exposure to wildlife and other domestic animals. Keep dogs within your sight (in a fenced yard, or on leash) during the day while outside

?Contact your veterinarian promptly if you believe your pet has been exposed to a wild animal

?Do not touch or feed wild animals. Wild animals like skunks and foxes adapt to residential environments if food is available - please don't leave pet food outdoors

?If you or a family member is bitten or scratched by a wild or unknown animal, call your doctor and Animal Control at 610-437-7535

If you encounter a lost or stray dog or cat, contact the City of Allentown Animal Control office at 610-437-7535 Monday-Friday from 8am to 4:30pm or the Lehigh County Humane Society after hours and on weekends and holidays at 610-791-1112.