Do Indoor Cats Need Vaccinations?
1 March, 2017
indoor cat vaccinations

When you have an indoor cat as part of your family, you invariably know the importance of annual veterinarian visits.  We want our cats to stay healthy and live a long, happy life.  And as our kittens mature into adult cats, do they really need annual vaccinations?

One way to think of vaccinations is how we think of how we vaccinate ourselves, our family or our kids.  Do we need a booster, flu shot or even antibiotics?  It depends on your health, where you live and what the side effects, risks are for the actual vaccination.

While there are no easy answers whether or not to vaccinate, the below can offer some guidelines of what to think about for your indoor cat.

Flea Medication for your cat

Many people believe that fleas are contagious and are transmitted from pet to pet. Although a flea-infested cat might spread the infestation to any cat that he comes into contact, remember that fleas, have the capacity for spreading and surviving. Fleas can roam freely and can make their way into houses under their own steam. Therefore, indoor-only cats are at risk of flea infestation even if they do not come into contact with any other animals (my indoor cat just got fleas for no explainable reason).

Of course, not every cat needs a monthly flea preventative. Cats with no skin problems and no visible flea infestation can often get by with only occasional applications of flea preventatives. So, in short, flea prevention can be considered optional for all cats, but especially for indoor cats.  The good news is that there are now many flea preventatives on the market that are more holistic and don’t have side effects.

In fact, if you want to know the best flea medication for your cat,  make sure to check out this very thorough guideline from Reviews: The Best Flea Treatment for Cats.

Vaccine booster shots

Indoor cats do not need booster shots every year. The importance of feline vaccination is very important in young cats. Kitten shots are the most vital and unvaccinated kittens can succumb to feline panleukopenia at high rates.  Most veterinarians will recommend that all cat owners diligently have their cats vaccinated (with the so-called FVRCP) at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks, and 14-16 weeks. A booster should occur at one year’s old. After that, most vets think that any cat receive subsequent boosters every three years; many owners of indoor cats elect a 5-7 year period.

The FVRCP is the most important vaccine kittens receive. There are two other vaccines that are in common use. One protects against feline leukemia, or FeLV. Indoor cats are not at risk of contracting FeLV. Therefore, as long as there is no chance of escape, indoor cats don’t need the vaccine for FeLV at all.

Rabies in cats

Rabies is a very scary disease for our cats and is spread through direct contact with infected (rabid) animals. Could an indoor cat be exposed to rabies? It is not likely but possible, especially if you have a cat that even spends a little time outdoors. It is not uncommon for an indoor cat to dash out an open door, to climb out a window. And, of course, once outside, a cat who wishes to escape will find some way to do so and any adventure outside carries with it the potential of exposure to being bitten.

When it comes to keeping your cat safe from rabies, it is better to vaccinate your cats every three years regardless of any requirements, rather than to not vaccinate him at all.  There are also many other factors, including your ‘taking that chance”, local laws (which sometimes mandate rabies vaccination in cats), and a cat’s likelihood of biting people (if your cat bites someone, your life — and your cat’s life — will be much easier if your cat is vaccinated against rabies).

Then of course, you have to consider the risk of adverse vaccination flare ups in cats. Cats are at risk of cancers called injection site sarcomas. This is a spot that looks like a scab and usually happens at the injection spot on your cat. As always, this is something you need to talk about with your veterinarian.

Heartworm prevention

Heartworm disease is spread by mosquitoes, which can easily come into your home. Although outdoor cats are more likely to be bitten, indoor-only cats have the potential to be infected with these serious parasites. The American Heartworm Society recommends heartworm prevention in all cats. And remember that most heartworm preventatives also protect against intestinal worms, which can spread to humans.

However, heartworm is more common in some areas than in others. Many cat decide choose not to get heartworm prevention medication especially for indoor-only cats.

What is the take-away here? While there are no easy answers, it is important to have a veterinarian who will talk to you about the vaccinations that are important (and necessary) for your indoor cat.  Ask questions, do research and be prepared, just as you would for your own Doctor’s visit.  In older cats over ten, the vaccinations should be substantially less if at all.

If your vet is reluctant to answer, than find another veterinarian who will!


2 thoughts on “Do Indoor Cats Need Vaccinations?”

  1. I am glad you mentioned that you should have the cat vaccinated from 14-16 weeks. We bought my kitten a few months back and I could not remember the ages she needs her vaccines. Thanks for the information on indoor cat vaccines!

  2. Sometime next week, I am going to get my first cat so I want to know which vaccinations she’ll need, and it’s great to know that flea prevention can be considered optional for all cats as you said since I won’t be exposing her to other cats until I can be sure she’ll be ready. I also appreciate that you stated that indoor cats do not need booster shots every year because I want to save money. Since you mentioned that the American Heartworm Society recommends heartworm preventions, I will be sure to get this vaccination for her along with other essential vaccines from a reliable veterinarian.

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