Vaccinations are an important part of looking after ourselves and our pets. Most owners vaccinate their outdoor cats, but do you need to if they live indoors only?

Why do we vaccinate?

There are a number of potentially serious illnesses that we can vaccinate against. Generally, in the UK our “core” vaccines protect against Feline Panleukopenia (Infectious Enteritis) and Cat Flu (Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus). Core vaccinations are those considered essential for every cat. The most used “non-core” vaccines in the UK protect against Feline Leukaemia Virus and Rabies Virus.

Non-core vaccinations are used on a case-by-case basis, thinking about an individual’s risk. The WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) and the European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases (ABCD) both agree on which vaccines are core and more information can be found on their websites. 

Why does my indoor cat still need core vaccinations?

Outdoor cats do have a higher risk of picking up disease, such as Infectious Enteritis and Cat Flu, but does that mean an indoor cat has no risk? No, unfortunately not. When we come and go from our homes, there is a very real possibility of us bringing infections back to our beloved cats. Viruses survive different lengths of time in the environment.For example, Feline Herpesvirus only last around a day but Feline Panleukopenia can last between 6 months and a year! There is no way of telling if you have come into contact with a virus so keeping them up to date with their vaccines is the safest way to protect your cat. 

It is important to consider that although you may choose to keep your cat indoors, there is a possibility of them developing the skills of an escape artist. It is stressful enough if your normally indoor cat is on a big adventure without having to worry about them catching a preventable disease. 

Are there any times my indoor cat might need a non-core vaccination?

There are some scenarios where you might choose to vaccinate against Feline Leukemia Virus and/or Rabies Virus. Feline Leukaemia Virus is found in huge quantities in an infected cat’s saliva. This means sharing bowls, mutual grooming or bites are some of the most common ways the virus is spread between animals. Indoor cats who live in a multi-cat household where some cats do go outside or where their Leukaemia status is not known. For example, if you have a rescue cat, should therefore be vaccinated.

Rabies vaccination forms an important part of taking your pet abroad to many countries. Even if you intend to keep your pet indoors whilst you are abroad, they will still need to be vaccinated. It is important to contact your vet at the earliest opportunity if you plan to holiday with your cat to get all the necessary paperwork arranged. 

Why else is my yearly booster important?

Whilst the vaccination itself is a particularly important reason for a visit to your veterinary practice, it also gives your vet an opportunity to check your pet over. The earlier the signs of an illness are picked up, the more your vet can usually do to support you and your cat. As an owner, you know your cat best. Your vet will be able to add to your observations with a thorough clinical exam, picking up on things that are not obvious. 

I am worried about vaccinations, what should I do?

It is totally understandable that you may have questions about your cat’s vaccinations. Your vet will be happy to explore these concerns with you and together, you can come up with the plan that is right for your individual circumstances. Your vet is there to support you and will be able to give you all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision.

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