Is Vaccinating Your Cat That Important?

Warning: I am not a veterinarian. All advice I give should be taken with a grain of salt, as with a lot of advice you may read online. I just like to help animals, through helping their pet parents, with the 19 years of experience I have gained by working in veterinary medicine.

Ultimately, you should consult your veterinarian before trying anything yourself at home.


Ok, let me back up a bit and be realistic.

Your cat’s lifestyle has everything to do with what vaccines your cat should be given.

But, without a doubt, your cat should be given a Rabies vaccine and stay up to date on it throughout their life.

I will get to the other vaccines in a minute, but let me explain why the Rabies vaccine could mean life or death to your cat in the blink of an eye.

Rabies is a deadly, incurable disease that is still very much a part of life in the wildlife population in every state of the United States. I think Hawaii is the only state that doesn’t have an issue with Rabies.

If your cat comes into contact with any type of wild animal, the consequences of that contact (whether it be minimal, they actually get attacked, or they bring home a wild creature) could affect you and your pet’s life if you have no way of knowing if that wild animal is carrying Rabies.

Just yesterday, a woman brought her 2 year old cat into the clinic because she was concerned about her cat bringing a bat home.

She had no proof of vaccinations and thought the cat was at least 4 months overdue….

In Arizona, that means at least 6 months of quarantine (costing many hundreds of dollars) or euthanasia.

The good thing about this story was she still had the bat that the cat brought home. So the bat could be tested, and if it is negative, the cat and her owner are saved.

You say your cat never goes outside?

I had a person who’s cat got ahold of a bat that fell from their chimney and into the fireplace.

The woman called the clinic to find out what she should do. I asked her if she still had the bat, but she had thrown it away.

I made her dig the bat out of the garbage, knowing it was going to be the only way to keep her cat out of quarantine and possibly save it’s life.

The strangest things can happen, especially when we live so close to nature, which is everywhere. Keep your cat’s Rabies vaccine up to date, and keep that paperwork somewhere safe.

The Rabies vaccine is also important if your cat ever bites another animal or person.

If that happens, and you have no way to prove your cat was vaccinated, and the injured person or animal goes to the hospital for treatment, the hospital is legally required to report the bite to the appropriate authorities.

Due to Rabies still being very much an issue, they have to make sure everyone is safe from all possibilities.

You may think that your cute little kitty would never bite anyone, but you have no idea what animals will do when they are put in stressful situations.

They can also bite when they are scared or painful, among many other possible scenarios.

Now, back to other the other vaccines.

It is important to vaccinate your cats when they are kittens, regardless of what their lifestyles are going to be. Vaccines help keep them from contracting the common diseases that still plague cats, whether they live indoors or outside.

Kittens get a series of upper respiratory vaccines typically starting at 8-10 weeks of age, a Rabies vaccine at 3 months old, and Feline Leukemia vaccines, if they will be going outside, starting at about 12 weeks of age and

after they have a negative test for the virus.

Your veterinarian should be able to tell you which vaccines are important based on where you live and you and your cat’s lifestyle. If you don’t trust what your vet has to say, then you need to find another clinic to take your pet’s to. You HAVE to be able to trust that your pet’s doctor is trying to do what’s best for you and your pet.

You can also contact other clinics and see which vaccines they recommend. If multiple clinics give you the same answers, then you know there’s a common protocol in place for a reason.

Another way to find out which vaccines are important is to call boarding facilities.

Boarding facilities don’t get any money from your cat receiving vaccines, they’re just looking out for the welfare of all the pets that they care for. If they require certain vaccines, there’s a reason for it.

Cats are very, VERY, prone to upper respiratory issues. Getting them the proper vaccines as a kitten, and keeping them up to date, may save you some time and money in the future, as well as save your cat from having to deal with the issues that come with these infections.

Cats are exposed to upper respiratory viruses when they are housed in large numbers and in enclosed spaces, like breeding catteries and animal shelters. How many people get cats from anywhere else? You may have found yours as a stray, or from a stranger selling kittens that his cat had by accident, but most people adopt from breeders or shelters, right?

They may not look sick when you adopt them, but any stressors can trigger a flare up, like an adoption into a new home, being introduced to new housemates, moving to a new home, and even its owners having company over can stress a cat out and cause their immune system to trigger a flare up. Cats are very sensitive to stress, but it’s not a guarantee that your adoptive cat will definitely get sick, either. Every cat id different, but whether they live indoors or outdoors, the proper vaccine is important.

Outdoor cats are even more prone to deadly viruses because they could come into contact with other cats, who may or may not be vaccinated.

Feline Leukemia can become a serious problem if your cat contracts this virus.

They can live happy and healthy lives, but minor issues can be compounded greatly by this virus, making it hard for their bodies to fight any infection.

There are other vaccines that your veterinarian may recommend. In my opinion, there is too much controversy around their efficacy. Rabies and an Upper Respiratory combo vaccine are what’s important for indoor cats, and the Feline Leukemia added to that regimen for cats that travel outside of your home. These vaccines, though not providing 100% immunity, have proven to be helpful in aiding cats in preventing these potentially deadly viruses.

Recommendations are different for wherever you live. There are different dangers in different parts of the country. Contact your vet, that you trust, to find out what’s important for where you live and based on what kind of lifestyle your cat has.

What are you vaccinating your cat against?

Rabies Virus:

From Wikipedia

Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and ultimately ends with death.

Most of us have seen ‘Old Yeller’, the yellow lab in the movie ends up getting Rabies and becomes aggressive towards his family and ultimately has to be ‘put down’. Very sad.

Feline Leukemia:

From Wikipedia

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can be transmitted from infected cats when the transfer of saliva or nasal secretions is involved. If not defeated by the animal’s immune system, the virus can cause diseases which can be lethal.

The signs and symptoms of infection with feline leukemia virus are quite varied and include loss of appetite, poor coat condition, anisocoria (uneven pupils), infections of the skin, bladder, and respiratory tract, oral disease, seizures, swollen lymph nodes, skin lesions, fatigue, fever, weight loss, stomatitis, gingivitis, litter box avoidance, recurring bacterial and viral illnesses, anemia, diarrhea and jaundice.

The upper respiratory vaccine typically has multiple agents in it, put together for the most common types of respiratory infectious viruses, like:




Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis:

From Wikipedia

Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an upper respiratory or pulmonary infection of cats. It is also commonly referred to as feline influenza, feline coryza, and feline pneumonia. Viral respiratory diseases in cats can be serious, especially in catteries and kennels. Causing one-half of the respiratory diseases in cats. FVR is the most important of these diseases and is found worldwide.


From Wikipedia

Feline calicivirus (FCV) is a virus that causes disease in cats. It is one of the two important viral causes of respiratory infection in cats, the other being. FCV can be isolated from about 50% of cats with upper respiratory infections.


From Wikipedia

Feline panleukopenia virus (FPLV) is a species of parvovirus that can infect all wild and domestic members of the cat family worldwide. It is a highly contagious, severe infection that causes gastrointestinal, immune system, and nervous system disease. (“Panleukopenia” means a decrease in the number of white blood cells.)

In my own personal opinion, yes, your cat’s should be vaccinated. Even if you only do your indoor only cat’s kitten vaccines, it gives it a good start of immunity.

If your cat goes outside, the vaccines should be updated as often as your veterinarian recommends.

All cats should stay up to date on their Rabies vaccine regardless of lifestyle, unless it’s health is compromised and it is recommended by your veterinarian to not be done.

Please email me your ideas for what I should write about next.

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