To vaccinate or not to vaccinate... that's our question!

There is so much controversy, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. I have been bringing my cats for vaccinations since they were kittens, my oldest is going to be 5 this year. I have been doing lots of reading and a rescue group I work with talks a lot about over vaccination. They recommend vaccines when they are kittens and at the one year mark but that's it, they say this will give them immunity for the rest of their lives. I mean, we don't go for boosters every year.... Should they?

Are your cats vaccinated annually. Do they live shorter life spans? My guys are due for their annual vaccinations but I'm hesitant to take them in. I then worry that if they ever do need a procedure (dental cleanings, etc), the vet won't take them cause they haven't been vaccinated. Would appreciate your experience with this.

Asked by Cooper on Feb 8th 2011 Tagged vaccination in Vaccinations
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Izadore (Izzie)

In all my years in animal rescue, I never encountered a cat (or dog) who was harmed by vaccinations. When we rescued an animal, we automatically vaccinated it unless we knew for a fact that it was an owner surrender and the owner had vet papers. That's not to say reactions to vaccinations never happen. Allergic reactions can occur. And you bring up a valid point. In the case of my dogs, I cannot board them, have a sitter come,feel comfortable taking them to a dog park, or take them in for surgical procedures and dentals unless they are vaccinated. In some states, there are regulations that animals (including cats) must have rabies shots. Who would know if you don't? Well, if your cat bites or scratches someone, it could be impounded if unvaccinated. IMHO, I would think it would be more wise to err on the side of caution. Yes, vet care is expensive. And the enconomy is in bad shape for everyone. But it's part of the responsibility we accept when we choose to become pet owners.

Izadore (Izzie) answered on 2/8/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer


My first cat, Tippy (a feral kitten rescue), was the love of my life. I took her to the vet every year for her rabies, distemper, and feline leukemia vaccines. She went outside, stayed on my deck, never got in any fights, and only came in contact with the cat next door (who was vaccinated yearly). Well, at about age 10, my cat was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and was treated for that condition. About nine (9) months later, she developed a large lump on her left side which turned out to be "spindle cell sarcoma". Upon researching this condition in felines, I learned that this type of cancer (fibrosarcoma) is caused by vaccines over the years. Further research stated that this cancer will happen in 17 out of every 10,000 cats. Why should it happen at all to any cat? It was an aggressive cancer, but it was the kidney failure which claimed her life three years ago. I now only get my indoor cat vaccinated for rabies yearly. Hope this helps with your decision.

Member 185886 answered on 2/8/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Since vaccination is not an emergency situation, take some time to surf the Internet and get some solid scientific information (avoid sites that seem too zealous about one choice or another, or which seem to be more opinion than solid data). The biggest question in my mind is if your cats go outside. Some feline diseases can be indirectly transferred to indoor cats anyway, and you never know when a rabid animal might find its way into your house (it happens), or when your cats might find their way outdoors and come into contact with a sick cat or rabid animal, but cats who go outdoors are obviously more vulnerable to disease. The issue regarding the potentially harmful aspects of regular vaccinations is being taken seriously by researchers, so you have reason to be concerned. But I worry that the current reluctance to vaccinate may also be influenced by the movement against vaccinating human children. Remember, if your cats go outside, they affect the health of other cats as well.

Chibi answered on 2/8/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer

Linus (Dreamboat #72a)

Rabies vaccine is required by law. Not only does it protect your cat, but if your cat were ever to bite anyone - you'd be in a huge legal mess made worse by not vaccinating.

I also do the distemper vaccine. If your cat were ever to escape outside, even briefly, they could get sick. Risks with vaccines are there but extremely low. I'd do it to be safe and follow your vet's recommendations. After a few years, sometimes you don't have to vaccinate annually, maybe every other year - except for rabies. The American Association of Feline Practitioners AAFP has recently updated their vaccine guidelines and your vet should be familiar with that.

Feline Leukemia vaccine is generally not recommended unless the cat goes outside. That also seems to be the one associated with the most vaccine reactions/problems. Still, the risk with vaccines are very small, and better to be safe. think how horrible you'd feel if your cat got an easily preventable disease?

Linus (Dreamboat #72a) answered on 2/8/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 1 Report this answer

Regional Winner, Supreme Grand

There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that the vaccinations are a dangerous attack on an unprepared immune system. Injecting a modified live virus into a blood stream, passing all the natural defenses OFTEN causes severe reaction and even death. Most healthy cats will survive the "experiment". Those what have underlying issues usually do not. Vets will not tell you all the truth. Vaccinations is one of their best sellers. Exercise your best judgment and do your homework before you vaccinate again. Immunity lasts much longer that 1 year. Yes, rabies is required by law but it is done in 3 year intervals now, not annual.

Regional Winner, Supreme Grand answered on 2/9/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer

Gumpy Sweet Boy

There are concerns about over-vaccination of pets and it's not just from zealous people. I didn't vaccinate my 16.5 yr old all the time when he was younger (I was dumb, I guess) and it may be one reason he's doing pretty well at his age. My traditional vet told me a few years ago to just stop vaccinating him (except rabies). Older cats really don't need to be vaccinated all the time - they've built up immunity. Your cats do have immunity after 5 years of vacs. The top US vaccine researcher says the feline distemper vac provides lifelong immunity (without boosters). In addition to sarcomas, a relationship to CRF and the distemper vac has been shown. I'm trying to figure this out for my 2 yr old cat. I will give minimal vacs and possibly do titer testing at some point to see how much immunity is present. Titer testing isn't perfect, but can provide info about immunity levels. It is hard to decide what to do.

I think this is a good article:

Gumpy Sweet Boy answered on 2/10/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


Wow, there are quite some differing opinions on this. I'd like to add a couple of things. Most people don't realize that your cat does not have to "escape" outside in order to be at risk of the major diseases (FeLV, FIV, FVRCP). Everytime your cat enters the vet's office, he/she is at risk because he/she is exposed to a plethora of other animals. There are new cleaning standards for properly disinfecting against these diseases and most clinics have not adopted these procedures yet or are performing them incorrectly. Contrary to popular belief, bleach does not kill these pathogens. There are 2 types of rabies vaccines - 1 yr. & 3 yr. The 3 year means less vaccinations over time but it carries a higher risk of the development of a sarcoma at the injection site. Be sure your vet vaccinates in the rear leg. In the event of a sarcoma, if other action cannot be taken, the leg can be amputated to save his/her life. These diseases are at bay currently due to the widespread use of vaccines.

Dahlia answered on 2/10/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer

Coralie Grace

My kitty Bella passed away from cancer that she got from vaccines.

Cora didn't get vaccines. I don't let her outside and so she is at MINIMAL risk for coming into contact with an infected animal.

Coralie Grace answered on 2/11/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


As a cat owner and future veterinarian, I have to say that cancer is caused by a variety of reasons, not only vaccinations. It is a personal choice, however, you need to look at the risk factors in your cat's lifestyle. If you have an outdoor cat, I would recommend keeping up with vaccinations, simply because of the variety of things that an outdoor cat is exposed to outside - close contact with unfamiliar cats and strays, contact and ingestion of insects, rodents, and birds which all harbor disease, contact with other humans or dogs, etc etc etc.

that being said, if you have an indoor cat who never escapes outside and never has contact with an indoor/outdoor cat, i think it's perfectly acceptable to not get any vaccs.

my cat is an indoor cat who likes to escape outside, so i keep up with her vaccs. my sister's cat, however, is very shy, never escapes the house, and has shown allergic reactions to certain vaccinations. my sister does not keep up with her cat's vaccs, and thats ok.

Belle answered on 2/14/11. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer