Feline Rabies Shots

Many state laws require cats to get the feline rabies shot. Even if your cat is kept indoors, there is a risk that a rabid animal could enter your home and infect your pet. One of the most common is a bat. Bats can enter through a rip in a window screen, open door or even through a chimney. Outside cats have a higher risk of being in contact with a rabid animal.

If your cat bites someone, you must be able to provide proof of rabies vaccination or your animal will be seized and killed to test for rabies. There is a slim chance animal control will be willing to quarantine your animal for the full six months, but this isn't common. The person who's been bitten will want immediate test results in order to avoid the painful series of rabies shots for human.

Basic Information Regarding Feline Rabies

Rabies attacks the brain causing unexpected, often aggressive, behavior in an animal. The only way to check for rabies is by euthanizing the animal and then viewing a sample of their brain matter. Pets that have been bitten or scratched by a wild or stray animal must be euthanized or put into quarantine for half a year.

There are three key stages to feline rabies. During the first, the animal may seem anxious and nervous. There may be a fever and most animals groom the area surrounding the bite excessively. This stage tends to last about two days in a cat.

The second stage is where you'll see the aggression. Cats will become mean, even with those they love, and may appear disoriented and act like they are drunk.

During the final stage, the nerves to the head and neck shut down. Breathing changes, animals have a difficult time swallowing and start to drool and foam at the mouth. Eventually, the cat will die from respiratory failure. Typically, a cat reaches this stage within a week of the first stage.

Vaccination Schedule for the Feline Rabies Shot

Rabies vaccinations are usually given in kittenhood and then a second dose is given a year later. After that, the vaccination is needed every three years. Proof of a prior rabies vaccination is needed if you change vets or go to a clinic. If you do not have any proof, the animal will be given a one-year vaccination. Rabies shots are required by law in many states, including Indiana, New York and North Carolina.

Rare but Possible Side Effects

Side effects are not common with rabies shots. The most likely is pain and swelling at the injection site. Not every cat will experience this, however. It's usually best to avoid petting your animal in that area for a few days. Other possible side effects include:

  • Decreased appetite

  • Seizures

  • Sleepiness

  • Tissue damage

There is a very small risk for certain animals to develop liver and kidney damage following the vaccine. This is generally limited to animals with previous health conditions. If you are concerned about your pet's behavior following the rabies vaccine, call your vet.