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Do you need to give your cat vaccinations? This question should be addressed with your veterinarian. Your guidelines should be if your cat is an inside only cat or allowed to roam outside or an inside/outside kitty.
Inside/outside cats should be vaccinated against all diseases especially rabies. If you live in the United States, all the states require you by law to vaccinate against rabies. Other vaccinations for inside/outside cats are:
Panleukopenia- known as Feline Distemper this is a highly contagious and deadly disease. Your outside cat will be susceptible if there are other infected (or carriers) stray cats in the vicinity. Vaccinating him will improve his odds of survival.
Feline Leukemia (FeLV) - This vaccination should not be given to inside only cats. FeLV can only be transmitted through direct contact with other cats that are infected. This contact can come from cat saliva, exposure to other infected cat waste or cat bites.
Rhinotracheitis- This causes the herpes virus in cats. The herpes virus is notorious for creating chronic upper respiratory infections.
Calicivirus- Essential for cats acquired from shelters, the calicivirus also creates chronic and severe respiratory infections. The difference between the two viruses, the Rhinotracheitis and the Calicivirus lies in the fact that the calicivirus also attacks the cat’s gums causing major infections leading to gum disease and tooth loss if not treated promptly.
Chlamysioss- A bacterial virus that attacks the sinuses, this vaccination is required if your cat is in contact with other stray and feral cats. Most outside cats do not have proper immune systems and respiratory illnesses are abundant.
The FIP vaccine isn’t proven effective against this disease. Perhaps in the near future the veterinary field will gather additional research funds and successfully find a way to stop FIP, but for now, there is no known cure.
Rabies is an essential vaccination for all cats, especially outside cats. Rabies is a horrible disease. The cat can come in contact with rabies from wild critters and other infected cats. Bats are the most common source of transmission. If your cat becomes infected with the rabies virus, he will attack you without hesitation. Your cat will be quarantined or destroyed, and you will have to endure a painful series of shots if you are bitten. Be safe and have your cat vaccinated against rabies. Rabies vaccines can only be given by your vet.
Self-vaccinating your cat
Is giving shots to your cat a wise thing to do? Self-vaccinating is less expensive (if there are no side-effects) than having a veterinarian administer the shots. With the proper instruction from your vet, and if you don’t fear needles, vaccinating your cat on your own is possible. Before you go this route, please consider the following complications that could occur:
Anaphylactic shock- This is a sudden and severe allergic reaction your cat might have to the virus invading his body. Any foreign body in the bloodstream is subject to this type of reaction. This occurs within an hour of the injection. Your cat will develop breathing problems, his gums will turn pale. Bodily functions are lost as the cat’s system tries to compensate. He becomes clumsy and disoriented, frightened and weak. Your cat needs a vet now- not later if he is to survive.
The health of your cat- When you bring your cat into the vet for vaccinations, the vet will perform a quick exam to determine if your cat is healthy. If any illness is present, the vaccinations will be postponed to another time. Cats are stoic when it comes to not feeling good. Being low on the food chain, they learn early how to cover up weakness. Vaccinating an ill cat should never be attempted.
Susan Little DVM adds her thoughts to pet owners self-vaccinating:
"Vaccination is a medical procedure involving many factors which veterinarians are trained to evaluate, such as what diseases the cat is at risk for, and what types of vaccines would be best for that patient. As well, animals should have a complete physical examination before vaccination. I don't recommend that pet owners vaccinate their own pets; they are denying their pet important health care and could cause their cat serious problems."
VAS- Vaccine Associated Sarcoma is becoming more prevalent. This disease is associated with all known vaccines. To combat this disease, your cat should never be vaccinated between his shoulder blades.
New feline vaccinations guidelines will be made available this summer, thanks to the efforts of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Academy of Feline Medicine. ¹
Before you decide to vaccinate, consider the lifestyle of your cat and talk with your veterinarian. Keeping your cat healthy requires you to be aware of what you are doing to promote his health. You and your vet need to be in complete agreement about how to keep your cat in optimum health.
¹ Catnip, July 2006-New Vaccination Guidelines, Amy Shojai
Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer. She is a member of The Cat Writers’ Association. Her expertise lies in feral cat socialization and animal abuse issues