This is a question that is frequently asked of veterinarians. Many pet owners are concerned about adverse effects of vaccines and over-vaccination has become a hot topic in recent years. If you ask 10 different veterinarians this question, you will probably get 10 different answers. The short answer is “It depends”. It depends on the age of the cat, its exposure to other pets, its medical history, and its environment.
Rabies vaccination is required by law for animals over 4 months of age. This is important to protect your pet against this deadly virus, but also to prevent transmission of disease to humans. A lot of cat owners don’t think their cat needs Rabies vaccine because it never goes outside, but if the cat ever bites or injures someone it is not a good scenario if there is no proof of vaccination.
The other “core” vaccine for cats is the FVRCP vaccine, which vaccinates against Feline Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus are primarily respiratory viruses most commonly seen in young cats and kittens. Panleukopenia is a gastrointestinal virus that is often deadly. All kittens should be vaccinated against these viruses as a series of “booster vaccines”. Boostering these vaccines is required to develop adequate immunity and protection. It is generally recommended that after the kitten series cats are “boostered” yearly. Most veterinarians will recommend decreasing vaccinations to every three years in older geriatric cats or adult cats in an environment with no exposure to other cats. Again, this is all dependent on several factors and should only be decided based on careful consideration and consultation with a veterinarian. One final option for the FVRCP vaccine to check titer levels in the blood to see if the cat still has immunity against the virus. This can be an expensive process, but may be the best and recommended option for some cats.
Feline leukemia vaccine is generally not recommended for indoor cats that never go outside. Feline leukemia is a virus that is transmitted from infected cats via bodily fluids or cat fights. This vaccine has been associated with development of fibrosarcoma, a malignant cancer, at the site of vaccination. For this reason most veterinarians discourage giving the feline leukemia vaccine unless a cat is in an environment with possible high exposure. All cats should be tested for feline leukemia regardless of whether the vaccine will be given or not.
There are other vaccines that are available for cats that may be given on a case-by-case basis after discussion with and recommendation by the animal’s veterinarian. If you have questions about vaccinating your cat or would like to make an appointment for a house call for your cat, contact Homefront Veterinary House Calls at (917)396-4041 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.