Are vaccinations needed for my indoor cat?

Updated February 21, 2017

Many owners of indoor cats wonder if it's truly necessary to vaccinate their cat. Annual or semi-annual appointments with a veterinarian, and the vaccines that a cat is supposed to receive at these appointments, can be expensive. Also, some vaccines are reported to occasionally induce dangerous side effects in the cat. Therefore, it's important to weigh both the risks and benefits of vaccinating your indoor cat before you decide one way or the other.

When to Vaccinate

Although you may believe that an indoor cat cannot be exposed to illnesses or diseases, the truth is that there are some opportunities for exposure. Some serious feline diseases are airborne, and therefore can be transmitted to your cat through an open window or other common vector. In addition, if there is ever any time when your cat may be exposed to other cats, there is the possibility of infection. These instances could include a visit to the veterinarian, exposure to a friend or neighbour's cat or exposure from a new pet you bring home. Also, if you have kittens, they should always receive the standard vaccines, since they are especially vulnerable.

When to Avoid Vaccinations

If your cat stays strictly indoors, you may not need to vaccinate it nearly as much as you would a cat that goes outdoors. There are several vaccinations that are aimed at diseases more likely to be contracted by outdoor cats that can be skipped. You should also avoid vaccinating your cat if it is prone to allergic reactions to medications, since some vaccinations can cause severe side effects.

Essential Vaccinations

Some vaccinations prevent common or contagious diseases, and should be given even to indoor cats. Other vaccinations aim to prevent especially damaging diseases. Your indoor cat should also have these vaccinations. Some of the most important vaccinations for indoor cats are those that prevent rhinotracheitis, a disease that can cause eye problems; calcivirus, which causes severe respiratory issues; and feline panleukopenia and feline viral respiratory disease complex, which are both airborne respiratory diseases. Indoor cats are also usually given the rabies vaccine. Although indoor cats rarely encounter rabies, it's highly recommended by veterinarians. Kittens should also be vaccinated against the feline herpes virus, which usually affects very young cats and can cause long-term effects.

Non-Essential Vaccinations

Unless your cat is likely to encounter other cats, there are some uncommon illnesses, or illnesses that indoor cats are highly unlikely to encounter, that you don't need to vaccinate your cat against. These vaccinations include feline distemper, chlamydiosis and feline infectious peritonitis. The feline leukaemia vaccination is also not strictly essential for indoor cats, and can have some of the harshest side effects. These side effects can include malignant tumours.

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Ann LaPan travels exuberantly in body and mind via planes, trains, automobiles and superb literature. A webmaster, website designer, graphic artist, accountant and musician (Jill of all trades, master of a few), she writes Today’s Horoscope for Shooting Star