Are Indoor Cat Vaccinations Necessary?

Vaccinating an indoor cat is an issue that is up for debate. Ask several different medical professionals, and you will get a varied response. The real answer is that only the cat owner can make this decision about the health of their own cat, as there are arguments for and against vaccinating indoor cats. In order to make an informed decision, you should be aware of the benefits and disadvantages to vaccinating your indoor cat.

Disease Exposure to Indoor Cats

Traditionally, veterinarians have recommended and pushed the concept of vaccinating cats on a yearly basis, even indoor cats. The theory behind this was that cats would be at much less risk of developing life-threatening diseases if they were vaccinated against them. Yet, cat owners have often wondered how an indoor cat could be exposed to potentially harmful diseases by spending their time indoors. It is, indeed, a myth that indoor cats are not exposed to disease.

Some of the most common cat upper respiratory infections, such as feline viral respiratory disease complex and feline panleukopenia, are air-borne illnesses. If there is another cat in the home, both cats are at risk. If your cat likes to sit in the sill of an open window, and there is a stray cat roaming outdoors, you indoor cat may be at risk. Feline panleukopenia is dynamic in that its organisms can actually survive in the threads of carpet or furniture. So, if you have moved to a new home where another cat once lived, your indoor cat may be at risk.

Furthermore, in the event that your cat needs to visit the veterinarian, exposure to other cats in the clinic can put your indoor cat at risk as well. In fact, most veterinarians will require that vaccinations are up to date, even for an indoor cat, if the cat needs to be boarded there for any reason.

Vaccination Side Effects

On the other side of the argument is the potential for side effects as a result of vaccination. Recent research has indicated that both the rabies and feline leukemia vaccines may have dangerous side effects. Research has shown that some cats develop malignant tumors at the injection site of these two vaccinations. Keep in mind that the occurrence rate of this side effect is very small, and research into this phenomenon is new and limited.

Feline Herpes Virus

Although most cat owners are not aware, the feline herpes virus is a virus that most cats are exposed to during infancy. This is a long-lived disease that lies dormant in cats for the remainder of their lives; vaccination cannot cure it, but it can prevent it from becoming threatening. Even if you intend for your cat to be an indoor cat, the fact remains that your cat has probably already been exposed to this disease. This is another circumstance where vaccination of indoor cats may be warranted.


The Bottom Line


The common myth is that indoor cats do not need to be vaccinated, and although there are potential side effects of vaccinating indoor cats, statistics still show that your cat is better protected by vaccinations than without. Even a cat that is living indoors is exposed to disease, so the best method of protection is prevention.