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Do indoor cats really need vaccines?

Discussion in 'Cat Health' started by emilymaywilcha, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. emilymaywilcha

    emilymaywilcha Thread Starter TCS Member Top Cat

    May 15, 2012
    Gainesville, Florida
    I just want the proven facts here. If a cat never goes outside, what vaccines does it need that are not required by law? Is there any reason not to vaccinate the cat at all except for the state-mandated rabies shot?

  2. carolina

    carolina TCS Member Top Cat

    Nov 17, 2008
    Corinth, TX
    IMHO this is a very good reading: http://www.holisticat.com/vaccinations.html

    Now, here is what I personally do, due to my ***personal situation***:

    Bugsy - due to severe vaccine reactions, he will no longer be vaccinated - even though it is the law, his vet will write a letter to the city. His last vaccine (rabies) got him very, very sick.

    I ran a titer test for distemper and the other diseases on the 3-in-one vaccine - he is fine, and will no longer be vaccinated either.
    I would not run a titer, and no longer vaccinate, BUT - Distemper kills, and the virus is carried in clothes, shoes, skin, etc - my live-in petsitter is a vet tech, and I travel about 3 weeks of the month, during which she is in my house, taking care of my kitties. I HAVE to be safe in case she unkwowinly comes in contact with a distemper cat.

    Hope and Lucky receive Purevax Rabies vaccine once a year because of the pesitting situation - Hope is a bitey kitty, and the last thing I want is her in quarantene because she bit the pet sitter :rolleyes:

    I will not vaccinate either for Distemper. (my vet's protocol is once every 3 years).

    If I not travelled for a living, I would not vaccinate any of them at this point - I believe they are fine at this point.... But with my personal situation, they require a bit of extra safety - I have to choose the lesser of both evils.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012

  3. southpaw

    southpaw TCS Member Adult Cat

    Jul 27, 2007
    Minnesota, USA
    My cat has not been vaccinated since he was a kitten. He is 10 years old, indoor only. I don't vaccinate my dogs as adults either, just rabies... IMO vaccines are effective for way longer than the manufacturer says anyway. I probably carry in God-knows-what on my clothes every day just from being out in the world (especially working at a vet clinic) and I tend to believe this is enough to keep the immune response of my healthy animals adequate.

    That's just me, though. For most people I recommend they at least get titers checked. But I don't think we need to vaccinate all the time, especially indoor cats that aren't out there exploring the world of disease.

  4. catsallaround

    catsallaround TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 21, 2009
    I only vaccinated some of my cats as the clinic I used to use required rabies and a combo shot.  Now I don't vac any of them except the outside cats I trap and the 2 outside cats I have.  Dog gets rabies only.  If you are low risk I see no reason to do it.  I am higher risk cause I have alot of cats but so far it has not been an issue.  I don't have many people over and they either don't have cats or it's the cats my Mom has that used to live with these guys anyways.

  5. Willowy

    Willowy TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 1, 2009
    South Dakota
    I give the kitten series, or one set if it's an adult stray. I don't vaccinate after that. There's pretty good evidence that the core vaccines confer immunity for a very long time, possibly for life. I don't have many people over (and those I do have over are non-hysterical friends and family, who wouldn't report it even if something did happen), so I don't worry about bite/scratch incidents. If I had tame outdoor cats I would keep them current on rabies.

    When I did vaccinate more often, the cats always had some chronic health thing going on. My first cat had IBD-type symptoms from about age 6 to about age 13. We stopped vaccinating her at age 10 and within 3 years she didn't have symtoms anymore, and lived to be 21 in fine health. I don't think she would have lived that long if we had kept vaccinating her. My first dog would become very dog aggressive for a few months after every vaccine. It took me a while to catch on to the cause of the aggression, but there was absolutely no doubt after I did figure it out. Anyway, vaccines cause more problems than just acute reactions or cancer.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2012

  6. callista

    callista TCS Member Top Cat

    Apr 6, 2006
    I'd recommend basic vaccinations...

    Think of it this way: A starving cat shows up on your doorstep, mewing pitifully and purring the second she's touched. What do you do?

    Yeah. You take the cat in, you feed her, you try to find her a home. How could you do anything different? But that starving stray could expose your cats--even if only indirectly--to the common feline diseases. Things can spread through the air, be carried on your hands, survive in shared spaces. Are the risks lower than if your cat went outdoors? Well, sure; lots lower. But they're not zero and I think the risk of exposure is still more important than the minimal risks you take when you vaccinate a cat.

    It's not just if you take in a stray--what about that new kitten you adopt from the shelter, or the time you have to get your cat-loving friend to take care of your cat while you go and help family out, or the stuff your cat gets exposed to in the vet's waiting room? What if the cat gets lost and spends a week prowling the neighborhood before you manage to scoop her back up again? You can't keep your cat in a perfect bubble.

    Trying to vaccinate against everything might not make sense if the cat is an indoor-only cat, but I wouldn't argue against vaccination, period. Go for the kitten shots at least--basic defenses against major cat diseases. If your cat's indoor-only and you don't foster or board the cat anywhere, that's probably enough.

    Naturally there are exceptions, like Carolina's cat Bugsy, where the risk of vaccination really is higher than the risk of the disease; but usually, it's not. Usually it's safer to vaccinate.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012
    mdaisy purraised this.

  7. tjcarst

    tjcarst TCS Member Alpha Cat

    May 19, 2012
    Lincoln, Nebraska
    Local law requires Rabies. I also must pay a professional pet sitter to care for my cats while I am away.  If not current on shots, they are not allowed to enter into my house.  Boarding is definitely not possible without shots (worst case scenario for me would be boarding).

    I do feel that pets are over vaccinated.  I wish that the laws would adapt to more recent studies.  I do understand the fear of rabies, but some of the other vaccinations do not seem necessary for low risk pets, especially indoor only.

  8. emilymaywilcha

    emilymaywilcha Thread Starter TCS Member Top Cat

    May 15, 2012
    Gainesville, Florida
    In Ohio, where I lived until December, the only state-mandated vaccine is rabies. Because it poses a risk to humans and kills quickly, I always wondered why any state does not require the rabies vaccine. But I do oppose the requirement to put a collar on your cat and never used one. Now I can understand concerns about skin cancer on the right leg, but those are rare and I would not forgo the vaccine unless the cat already had one in the past.

    By "over-vaccinated," do you mean too many diseases or too many shots for each virus?

  9. dianeandbooboo

    dianeandbooboo TCS Member Young Cat

    Nov 5, 2011
    I have never vaccinated my cat in her life for anything and she is 12 years old.  That was pretty radical thinking back then and I am so grateful that I took the advice of a good friend many years.  Since that time I have spent many years research vaccines and immunology I am even more convinced I made the right decision many years ago.  Me personally, I would never vaccinate my cat.

  10. ldg

    ldg TCS Member Veteran

    :yeah: That's what we do. Ours no longer receive any vaccinations of any kind. We'd get an exception letter from the vet if needed, but even rabies isn't required in our county. We figure if there's an emergency of some kind, and they need to go to boarding or WHATEVER, we'll get them done then if necessary.

    Our vets get rabies vaccinations. They have titre tests done very two years. So far, none of them have needed boosters. There's no reason to think the immune system of animals functions any differently:


    The 1992 French Study is included in the link.

    The Rabies Challenge Fund is conducting a longer-term challenge study, though the initial goal is simply to "prove" that the 3-year is three years:


    The rabies thing is interesting. There are 2 manufacturers of the vaccine for animals. The EXACT SAME PRODUCT is marked "one year" or "three years," depending upon where it is being delivered. Some States require one-year rabies vaccinations - yet the Federal requirement is every three years. :dk:

    From the Little Big Cat link above:

    If you rescue or foster, having a "quarantine room" is a necessary precaution. And those rescue/foster animals shouldn't be introduced to your cats until they've seen a vet, been vaccinated, and several weeks have passed to ensure no illness flares up, even if they do not appear sick. :dk: So I see no reason to - what in my opinion - is over-vaccinated your own cats because you rescue or foster. :dk:
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

  11. feralvr

    feralvr TCS Member Veteran

    Dec 30, 2010
    Northwest Indiana
    I do not vaccinate my pets any longer. I am certain that my dog, Wilbur has had serious health issues over the years from being over-vaccinated unnecessarily. :shame: Google "vaccinosis".

    I follow Dr. Dodd's protocol for dogs/cats now and our holistic vet's recommendations are the same. http://www.itsfortheanimals.com/DODDS-CHG-VACC-PROTOCOLS.HTM
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

  12. ldg

    ldg TCS Member Veteran

    That looks like a pay-per-ask-question site.

  13. feralvr

    feralvr TCS Member Veteran

    Dec 30, 2010
    Northwest Indiana
    :lol3: just saw that too :rolleyes: Many vet's are ALL for vaccines, of course, it helps line their pockets along side the drug companies who manufacture the vaccinations.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

  14. emilymaywilcha

    emilymaywilcha Thread Starter TCS Member Top Cat

    May 15, 2012
    Gainesville, Florida
    The rabies challenge article is very interesting but says nothing about cats. How do you know cats and dogs have identical immune systems?

    I don't know if Florida requires the rabies vaccine, but if it does, I will not ask for a waiver for any cat that has no adverse reaction to it.

    My question was more about what cats need IN ADDITION TO rabies, if anything.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

  15. ldg

    ldg TCS Member Veteran


    This is the Vaccinations and Feline Cancer link referred to: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=688

    I can't answer your other question. Based on my research, we provide rabies and distemper for kittens, and that's it. All three of our vets are on board for this. :dk:
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

  16. ldg

    ldg TCS Member Veteran

    Oh - here's the asterisked part:

    Apparently the studies in dogs will work for cats.

  17. rafm

    rafm TCS Member Super Cat

    Jul 29, 2011
    The cats are not vaccinated outside of the kitten vaccines. They do not go outside and we do not bring untested animals in the house. We have had zero issues with this and our vet is fully on-board. In fact, when we switched to her, one of the questions on the form asked if the cat is current on vaccinations and I marked no, to which the vet said "mine aren't either, kitten vacs are sufficient". We don't do a yearly rabies either.

    The dogs are a bit different. The old dog gets a rabies every year because it's required for city license. The young dog gets a full set every year so far (she's two) as she goes to the dog park and Petsmart and will soon be approved as a therapy dog.

  18. emilymaywilcha

    emilymaywilcha Thread Starter TCS Member Top Cat

    May 15, 2012
    Gainesville, Florida
    OMG Laurie you quoted somebody in my city! I am about 10 minutes away from UF.

  19. ldg

    ldg TCS Member Veteran

    I noticed that later. :lol3: Yep, Julie Levy is hugely published, a very famous vet. She's done a lot of work on TNR, many JAVMA articles. (Rabies/vaccinations, obviously a big topic as re: TNR). You've heard of Operation Catnip, I presume? That's her brain child. She's also affiliated with Maddie's Fund and Winn Feline Foundation. :nod:
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2012

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