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Do Indoor Cats Need Rabies Shots Every Year?

It might seem that indoor cats do not need much care. A lot of cat owners set out a bowl of water and another filled with dry food.

Some people with cats that come in and out of the house as they please do not even have a litter box. Yes, cats require minimal care compared to other pets, but cats need more than this to be their best and most healthy selves. 

All pets and children need their shots from an early age. Cats need both core vaccinations and non-core vaccinations, but this will depend on the cat and their living environment.

Indoor and outdoor cats can vary. Factors such as living with other animals, contact with strange animals such as through groomers or boarding facilities, etc.

There is much to consider for what shots your cat needs or doesn’t need, but a trained veterinarian will know what is best for your cat. 

But do indoor cats need shots every year? It all depends on you and your cat, but most cats should receive booster shots either annually or every three years. Discuss options with your veterinarian for a professional take on your cat’s needs. 

Reasons Why Your Cat Needs Shots

… As A kitten:

Common law requires that all cats be vaccinated against rabies. All dogs as well. It is the only required vaccination.

But it is still critical for a cat to receive their other shots. This would be the core vaccinations that cover common health conditions.

The core vaccinations protect felines against rabies, as this is required, as well as the commonly referred to “distemper” shot, and feline herpes. The “distemper” shot includes protection against Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP). 

The core vaccinations begin around 6-8 weeks old for cats. Along with their necessary shots, they will be examined by the vet for parasites, leukemia, and other illnesses.

Kittens need their second series of vaccinations around 12 weeks old, and their final round 16 weeks which includes the rabies vaccination. 

Rabies is a deadly zoonotic disease that is responsible for more than 59,000 human deaths each year. In the United States this is rare, as it is in most developed nations.

But there are many places where it is common to come into contact with a rabid dog or cat. Death from rabies is very preventable but it requires good and immediate medical attention.

The most cost-effective and efficient method of prevention is of course vaccination. 

More than 250 cats every year are reported rabid, and 60-70 dogs according to the CDC. Most of these cases involve an unvaccinated pet. 

… As An adult:

It is common for cat owners to only get their cat the initial rounds of core vaccinations but it is often necessary for cats to receive boosters through their adult life as well. 

Though all cats need their initial core vaccinations, getting shots as an adult depends on their lifestyle. Factors such as how much time they spend outside, how many other animals they are in contact with, and whether they spend time in boarding facilities or groomers all play into how often your cat should get booster shots. 

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Vaccinations for indoor cats are preventative care for potential encounters with disease. You might not think your cat will ever come into contact with diseases if they are kept indoors, but there is always the chance they will.

Especially if the environment is shared with other animals such as dogs who more than likely go outside multiple times a day. Even living in an apartment plays a factor, as there are other animals in the buildings.

And it is always possible for a rodent or bat to make its way into your home and your cat to catch a disease that way. Cats are curious animals and can’t seem to leave little critters alone. 

With their curiosity too comes the chance that they could escape their home and catch a disease while they are out on their own. This will probably again be from chasing squirrels and birds and mice.

It is more than likely every cat will come into contact with a preventable illness. Rabies, bacteria, and other viruses are hidden around every corner.

Outdoor cats on the other hand are guaranteed to come into contact with many more diseases and be much more at risk. Outdoor cats will most likely be recommended to receive annual boosters where indoor cats are more likely to have triannual shots.

However both indoor and outdoor should be seen by the vet annually to determine their health status. 

It is not only helpful but critical for a cat’s life to be vaccinated, at the very least, as a kitten with their core vaccinations. After this a vet may recommend based on the cat’s environment and lifestyle that they receive booster shots every year, every other year, or even every three years.

These booster shots will allow your cat’s immune system to remain strong and fight off disease. 

It is unlikely that a vet will recommend annual booster shots unless a cat is very high risk. As they get older, the need for booster shots lessens.

It is mainly during adolescence that a cat’s immune system needs to be boosted by vaccinations to ensure their survival into adulthood. After that, it is common for veterinarians to provide at most a booster shot every three years. 

Vaccinations are tricky as well in that they last a different amount of time in each cat. Some cats can go over five years between boosters while other cats can only go two years.

Every cat is different and they change as they grow older. Other factors will be their breed, age, and health status.

It is possible a cat will have an immune deficiency that requires extra attention in terms of boosters, or even a condition such as asthma that makes it difficult for a cat to get shots. It ultimately depends on the individual cat, your life and theirs, their health, and what the veterinarian recommends. 

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On top of this the vet will give your cat other preventative medicine such as flea, tick, and heartworm control as well as mites. There are other shots your indoor adult cat may need that aren’t as common and used on a case-by-case basis.

A veterinarian may determine that a cat needs a vaccination for Chlamydiosis, or Giardiasis. 

Another factor in determining cat vaccination regularity is cost. Getting yearly boosters may seem expensive, but they can stave off larger problems which cost much more in the long run.

Even waiting a few years to get re-vaccinated can be more expensive than simple boosters. 

Again, this all depends on the individual cat and their needs.

How To keep Your Cat Healthy Beyond Shots

How to keep your cat healthy beyond shots

Besides the typical vaccinations, there is a lot we can do as pet owners to ensure our pets live their best lives. First off is regular vet visits.

This will depend upon, again, the cat’s lifestyle and environment, as well as age, breed, and health status. Your vet will probably recommend annual visits but if your cat is young and healthy with a good life set up, they might say they don’t need to be seen for three years unless issues arise.

It really depends on the individual cat. 

Vaccinations are not the only way to keep our pets healthy. Proper food with balanced feline nutrition, plenty of water, and a lot of exercise and rest are the best ways to keep your cat naturally healthy in addition to being vaccinated.

And of course, prevention for fleas and ticks and heartworms. A discussion with your veterinarian should clear up any questions you have regarding your pet’s health needs.

It might be that with good care, your cat does not need annual booster shots. 

Experts often disagree what the best vaccination practices are, but there is little disagreement in how to keep your cat happy and healthy.

How To Know If Your Indoor Cat Needs Annual Shots

The simple answer is ask your veterinarian. Be prepared to answer many questions and ask many questions to determine the best solution for your cat.

Cats with compromised immune systems may need annual boosters, while healthy young cats may not need shots for three years at a time. But some feline viruses mutate rapidly, and annual boosters may be necessary for continual immunity toward a virus.

Regular boosters will give the peace of mind that your cat is protected against the latest strains. But again, this is ultimately up to the veterinarian you trust. 

Final Thoughts

Indoor cats do need vaccinations. But all cats need vaccinations.

The frequency beyond the initial core vaccinations is up to you, the vet, and your cat’s individual needs. In the past cats would frequently die of many preventable diseases until vaccination became normal and required.

Now statistics of cats with rabies and feline distemper as well as feline leukemia and feline herpes virus have dropped rapidly, saving thousands of cat, dog, and human lives.