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Do Cats Need Shots Every Year

Do Indoor Cats Need A Rabies Vaccine Too

Do dogs need rabies shots every year?

I have heard many pet parents say, But my cat is indoors only, when I bring up vaccinating their cat, particularly against rabies. It is very important that ALL cats be vaccinated against rabies, including cats that never go outdoors.

While you may keep your cat indoors, that doesnt mean that they cant ever escape or that wildlife cant ever find its way into your home.

Bats frequently sneak inside homescoming down chimneys or exploring attics. Bats are also known to trigger the hunting instinct in cats, which means your cat is more likely to chase and attempt to catch or play with a bat. Racoons are also known to make their way into your attic.

To ensure your cat is never at risk for rabies, the best decision you can make is to get them vaccinated against rabies.

Do Cats Need Vaccinations For A Cattery

If you need to put your cat in a cattery, it will need certain vaccinations. This is because catteries have a substantial number of animals living near each other.

The cat will likely be stressed initially. As explained by Animal Welfare, this anxiety will erode over time. All the same, stress weakens the feline immune system. Contagious viruses can spread quickly in a cattery.

Most catteries have strict rules regarding vaccinations before accepting residents. A cat is unlikely to be admitted without proof of core vaccination. Some catteries also demand an FVRCP booster eight weeks before admittance.

If using a cattery, non-core vaccinations particularly Bordetella bronchiseptica are also advisable. This condition is colloquially referred to as kennel cough for a reason. As per Veterinary Quarterly, some catteries experience chronic outbreaks.

Flea infestations in a cattery are often linked to spreads of bordetella bronchiseptica. Protecting your cat from parasites, as well as getting vaccinated, will reduce risk.

When Did The Shift Away From The Annual Vax Start

Originally published in the March 2015 issue of Veterinary Practice News

After speaking with hundreds of practicing veterinarians over the past two years about vaccines and vaccination protocols, Richard Ford, DVM, has found that practitioners are slowly trending away from all vaccines to all pets every year.

I believe it is fair to say that some trends are emerging, said Dr. Ford, a co-author on both the American Animal Hospital Association canine vaccination task force and the American Association of Feline Practitioners feline vaccination advisory panel.

He has noted a growing the tendency to incorporate triennial boosters for core vaccines in dogs and cats .

In speaking with vaccine sales representatives from around the country, I would estimate about half of the practices today routinely incorporate the three-year recommendation for core vaccines, Ford said.

Ford sees this largely as a good thing.

The science is abundantly clear on this point, Ford said. While some vaccines must be administered annually to sustain a reasonable level of protective immunity, others namely the core vaccines provide years of protective immunity in the majority of dogs/cats that are vaccinated. There is simply no medical justification that warrants administering core vaccines to all pets annually.

After that, booster intervals should be every three years, or serum vaccine titers can be rechecked every three years.

Bottom line is that its all about risk assessment.

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How Do Cat Vaccinations Work

Vaccines teach the immune system to recognize a virus and fight against it. In essence, a vaccine imitates a virus to prepare a cats body to remove it in the future. Feline vaccines come in three forms:

  • Modified live vaccines contain a current version of a virus that has been diluted and weakened.
  • Inactive vaccines inject a dead version of a virus into the bloodstream to avoid it in the future.
  • Subunit vaccines contain traces of the DNA of a virus rather than the entire infection.

Most feline vaccines are administered by injection, but some can be inhaled nasally. As the cat is injected with a virus when vaccinated, it may experience some side effects. However, these will be minor and short-term.

Modified live vaccines provoke the strongest side effects but also offer greater protection. However, these are not always suitable for older or weaker cats.

How Is Rabies Transmitted

Your cat

Weve too long underestimated the threat that rabies poses to cats. There are more laws governing the need for rabies in dogs, the domestic animals most often associated with the virus. Cats seem more innocuous, perhaps due to their size, and are thus given freer reign in outdoor situations. Both of these are risk factors. A single bite from infected wildlife can transmit the disease.

The animals that pose the greatest threat for infecting a cat with rabies are bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Rabies transmission is achieved when the saliva of an infected creature enters the bloodstream. This typically happens in altercations when a cat is bitten. Given the self-grooming habits of all animals, it is less likely but possible for rabies to be transmitted through a particularly violent scratch wound. The incubation period of a rabies infection whether it is furious or paralytic in nature is very fast.

Depending on the distance from the bite site to the brain, where it is free to wreak havoc on the nervous system, symptoms and signs of rabies in cats can take as little as a week to manifest. No matter how unlikely your cat is to encounter a woodland or urban carrier, a cat with an up-to-date rabies vaccination stands the best chance of survival.

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Why Is It Important To Avoid Missing A Cat Vaccination

We just want to keep our pets up-to-date. We want to be able to see your cat at least once a year, every year. That is a time that we can evaluate vaccination needs and get boosters up-to-date. If we’re not keeping up with those boosters, the immunity may wane over time, and with potential exposure, we may or may not know if your cat is going to be protected.

If you still have other questions and you’d like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at , you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we’ll get back to you as fast as we can.

What Routine Vaccinations Are Given To Cats

Feline vaccinations are broken down into core and non-core. Core vaccinations are recommended for all cats. Non-core vaccinations are considered optional but advisable. This table details which vaccination falls into each definition:

Core Vaccines for Cats
Bordetella Bronchiseptica
Feline Calicivirus Chlamydia Felis

Many vets will offer an FVRCP vaccination. FVRCP is an acronym for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. This means all core vaccines bar rabies are concentrated into one treatment.

Two other vaccines are also available for cats but are not listed above. These offer protection against:

  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis
  • Dermatophytosis

Ask a vet for these vaccinations as FIP is invariably fatal if contracted. The American Association of Feline Practitioners does not recommend these vaccines, though. They are considered ineffective and promote a false sense of security.

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What Diseases Can Vaccinations Protect Against

Cats are commonly vaccinated against:

  • Cat flu
  • Feline infectious enteritis
  • Feline leukaemia virus

Your vet can advise which vaccinations your cat or kitten will need to help protect them from infectious diseases. When you get your kitten, one of the first things you should do is register them with a local vet, who will be able to carry out the vaccinations your kitten needs.

If My Cat Is Going To Strictly Live Indoors Do They Still Need To Be Vaccinated

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Absolutely. As I’ve mentioned before, rabies is still a risk even if your cat never goes outside. We still recommend distemper in most cases, too, just because we keep our windows open in the summertime here, and some cats go out and about. We want to keep any potential risk factors minimized by keeping those indoor kitties vaccinated.

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Vaccines Truths And Myths

As with many medical interventions, there is often a misunderstanding of the benefits and risks of vaccination. This misunderstanding can sometimes lead well intentioned cat owners to make misinformed decisions about this vital aspect of feline health maintenance. Here are some examples of truths and myths regarding feline vaccination.


  • Vaccination protects all cats by making disease transmission less likely
  • No vaccine is 100 percent effective, and the effectiveness of different vaccines varies
  • Although uncommon, all feline vaccines carry the risk of feline injection site sarcoma


  • Vaccinating a cat against a disease can treat that disease
  • Vaccinating a cat against a disease causes that disease
  • All cats should receive every vaccine available for cats

Q What Are The Side Effects Of These Vaccines

Just like humans, animals can get a bit of a fever or stomach upset and feel a little bit punky. There can be local reactions such as swelling, redness or sensitivity, but they dont happen that frequently. Hives can develop, particularly in dogs, but a couple of injections by the veterinarian can make them go away.

Severe side effects are rare but may include anaphylaxis . That usually happens immediately while theyre still at the clinic and able to get treatment.

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Q Who Decides Upon These Guidelines

A couple of organizations play a role in establishing vaccine protocol. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has an advisory board that is always monitoring and updating their guidelines. The American Animal Hospital Association is also involved in setting protocol and providing information for practitioners and pet owners.

Are Cat Vaccinations Necessary

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Some cat vaccinations, I would say, are necessary for pretty much every cat. The most important one would be the rabies vaccine required by state law for all cats. Even if they’re inside 100% of the time, it’s a good idea to do it still. Bats can get in the house Anybody that’s got an old camper or an old house here in Maine will know that you get a bat in the house here and there. You don’t always necessarily know if that bat has interacted with your cat or even with you when you’ve been asleep. You can’t tell if you’ve been bitten sometimes, and that’s still a potential vector for rabies. We must keep all of our pets safe so that we keep ourselves safe.

Even for indoor cats, I recommend doing distemper shots every three years until they’re about anywhere between 8 to 10 years old. That’s just to protect them against potential exposure through a screen, or if you decide to get a kitten, to keep them safe. For cats going outside, I also recommend the leukemia vaccine because that is a disease that we can’t cure, and it can cause several health problems. Leukemia is transmitted from cat to cat, usually through an aggressive activity like scratching or biting.

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Is Cat Vaccination Really Necessary

Bringing a brand new kitten into your home opens your life to years of love and antics. Yet it can feel a bit overwhelming knowing you are solely responsible for the health of that little furball.

How can you be certain that you are doing all you can to protect your cats health, both now and in the future? One way is through giving your pet the required vaccination. A smarter way to do this, which ensures you dont miss the vaccination schedules, is opting into pet care plan to stay on top of all the necessary preventative healthcare.

Are There Risks Or Side Effects Associated With Cat Vaccinations

There are risks with any injection that we do, but the risks are pretty minimal. These vaccines are pretty darn safe in most situations, but there’s always a risk of soreness at injection sites, swelling, bleeding, and those sorts of things. Those are probably the most common things that we would see. On very rare occasions, we can see an allergic reaction. This would typically happen within 30 minutes of the injection, and it’s very apparent. We would see wheezing, facial swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you ever notice any of these sorts of signs after your cat’s been vaccinated, you want to get them back to us as soon as possible so that we can treat that reaction. We can also see that sometimes kitties will be quiet for two to three days after a vaccination, which usually resolves on its own.

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What Are Cat Vaccinations

Several serious feline-specific diseases afflict many cats every year. To protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, its critical to have them vaccinated. Its equally imperative to follow up your kittens first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if you expect Fluffy to be an indoor companion.

The aptly named booster shots boost your cats protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. There are booster shots for different vaccines given on specific schedules. Your vet can provide advice on when you should bring your cat back for more booster shots.

Lifestyle Vaccines For Cats

What Vaccines a Cat Needs

Some cats will need lifestyle/ non-core vaccinations depending on the lifestyle they live. Your veterinarian will let you know which ones your kitty should get. This type of vaccine protects you cat from the following conditions:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus and Feline Leukemia – These vaccines usually are only recommended for cats that are outdoors often and protects them against viral infections which are contracted from close contact exposure.
  • Bordetella – A highly contagious bacteria that causes upper respiratory infections. Your vet might suggest this this vaccine if you are taking your cat to a boarding kennel or groomer.
  • Chlamydophila felis – This vaccination is often part of the distemper combination vaccine. It protects your cat from Chlamydia which is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis.

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Rabies Vaccinations For Indoor Cats

You asked:I have gotten mixed information about rabies vaccine times. Should you vaccinate an indoor cat once a year after the booster or every 3 years?

Dr. Diaz Answered: Great question! Rabies vaccination is an important and required vaccine for all cats. A common misconception is that indoor cats are not required to maintain updated vaccines as they do not have exposure to the outdoors or other animals. In fact, rabies vaccinations are required by law in all felines.

Kittens are generally vaccinated once around 4 months of age or within their first year of life. This vaccine is valid for 1 year after its first administration. After this, cats are eligible for a 1 year or a 3 year vaccine. Here at Friendship, we like to administer the 3 year rabies vaccine on its own and to cats under the age of 9 years old, to ensure that no vaccination reactions occur due to the mild increase in antigenic stimulation. All vaccines recommendations are made based on each individual patient, their medical history, and physical exams. We always enjoy providing owners with information regarding vaccinations and care for indoor and outdoor cats. Please feel free to contact your Friendship Primary Care Doctor to see what vaccines might be best for you cat!

Do Pet Vaccines Cause Cancer And Other Illnesses

Some veterinarians have argued that vaccines can lead to immune-mediated conditions, cancers and organ-related illnesses. The most studied and well-documented example of this is vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma in cats due to the FeLV vaccine. The result has been changes in vaccine recommendations for cats, including how often and where to give the vaccines. Other concerns are not as well documented, but significant correlations have been made between vaccines and other illnesses.

The flip side of the argument is that vaccines have greatly decreased the amount of infectious diseases in animals. Before vaccines became routine, veterinarians spent a lot of time working with horrific infectious diseases, such as distemper, rabies, panleukopenia and parvovirus. We certainly still see those diseases, but much less frequently. Overall, vaccines have greatly improved the health of our pet population.

So, vaccines are very important for the overall health of our pets, but they need to be used judiciously. There is also a difference in the need to vaccinate pets living in homes and the need to vaccinate those who are in shelters or sanctuaries. For animals who do not yet have homes and are living in group or high-density situations , vaccines are crucial to maintaining their health and the health of any new arrivals. There are very good reasons to vaccinate and administer appropriate booster vaccines to this population of animals.

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Indoor Cats Need Vaccines Too

You may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations however in many states all cats must have certain vaccinations by law. For example, many states require that cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has their shots your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate showing that your cat has been vaccinated as required.

Another important reason to have your indoor cat vaccinated is that indoor cats often manage to sneak out the door when their owner isn’t looking. Just a quick sniff around your backyard could be enough for your kitty to contract one of the very contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.

If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet’s health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of spreading viruses – make sure that your indoor cat is protected.

There are 2 categories of vaccinations that are available for pets, ‘core vaccines’ and ‘lifestyle vaccines’. Our Montecito vets strongly recommend that all cats – both indoor cats and outdoor cats – receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.


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