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Are Cat Vaccinations Necessary?


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Published: 03/15/2021
Vaccinations are essential not only for pet parents but their fur-babies as well. Your feline friend can contract a range of diseases during their lives, from rabies to feline herpesvirus to feline leukemia. With so many potential dangers, vaccinations are key to ensuring your tiny tiger has a long and happy life. But are cat vaccinations always necessary? Here's the lowdown.

Outdoor cats

If your little lion loves to roam around your neighborhood, you should definitely get them vaccinated. It's worth pointing out that regardless of whether your cat is indoors or outdoors, it's illegal in most states not to give your cat their rabies shots. The feline rabies vaccination is considered a core vaccine by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). You can find a full list of state-by-state requirements on the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) website

While your cat may not stray far from home, they'll likely encounter other felines, who may spread diseases like feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus. These diseases are usually spread through interactions with other cats, from sharing food to fighting. While vaccines against some diseases, like bordetella, aren't mandatory by law in most states, it's important you get your outdoor cat vaccinated to avoid them contracting these potentially serious diseases.

Indoor cats

But what about if your cat never ventures outside? You might think Smudge doesn't need vaccinations because they're a home bird, but that's not the case. As mentioned, it's a legal requirement to vaccinate your cat in many states. For example, many states follow the  Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control guidelines published by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV), which states that all cats should receive their primary rabies vaccination at approximately 2 to 3 months old, depending on the vaccine type. 

As cats are curious by nature, you should get your indoor cat their core and recommended non-core vaccinations as a precaution, just in case they escape into the great outdoors. An indoor cat is likely to have a weaker immune system than outdoor cats as they aren't exposed to the same germs, so they may be more prone to infection. Talk to your vet about what vaccinations they recommend for your indoor cat.

Booster vaccinations

You may be asking yourself, "Once my cat has its primary vaccinations, do I need to bother with boosters?" Studies show that if your cat doesn't get booster vaccinations, it puts them at an increased risk of infection. Most research suggests an initial vaccination covers a cat for 1 to 3 years, so boosters are essential for continued protection. 

As veterinary science evolves, the timeframe for boosters may change. For example, your vet may suggest your indoor cat doesn't need their booster as regularly as an outdoor cat. That being said, coverage can vary from disease to disease. For example, some studies suggest coverage for bordetella can be less than a year, so annual vaccinations are essential. Vaccination schedules can differ depending on your cat's age and health. Consult your vet to check when's best to book your cat in for booster vaccinations.

What are the potential side effects?

One of the most common reasons pet parents don't get their cats vaccinated is due to potential side effects and misinformation from anti-vaxxers. As most vaccines involve administering a small amount of a disease or virus to stimulate an immune response, it's possible your cat may show some minor side effects, similar to a flu jab in humans. The most common short-term side effects include lethargy and tenderness around the injection site. Other more serious side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever; however, these are very uncommon and only last a couple of days. 

Many anti-vaxxers believe that cats and dogs can get many diseases and disorders from vaccinations, most commonly autism. It's worth pointing out that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has carried out studies that prove there's no link between vaccines and conditions like autism. There's also no evidence that suggests cats can be autistic.

In very rare cases, cats can be allergic to certain vaccines. If you notice your cat having a severe reaction like difficulty breathing, or if your cat has been having mild symptoms for an extended period, contact your vet immediately. If you have any quick queries about vaccinations, you can also contact a vet 24/7 through Wag!

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