Should Cats Receive Annual Rabies Vaccines?


Portrait of a Kenyan catTambako The Jaguar | more info (via: Wylio)
I am about to make a vet appointment for my 9 year old cat. She had a Rabies vaccine a year ago. My friend told me some vets are giving the shot yearly and that is not needed and can kill your cat. What are your thoughts. My cat Miss Molly is an inside cat.

Hudson Beach, FL

It is my opinion that cats, especially indoor cats, need rabies vaccines much less often than yearly. There are three reasons why vets give the vaccines yearly.

Legislative mandate is the most common reason for annual feline rabies vaccination. Remember that cats receive rabies vaccines in order to protect humans from the disease. Annual rabies vaccination is required by law in many municipalities. It is my opinion that annual feline rabies vaccine requirements are out of date. However, vets have no choice but to comply with the law.

Some vaccines are labeled as effective for only one year. Most notably, the feline Purevax (made by Merial) must be given annually in order to comply with manufacturer specifications.

The third reason why some vets give annual rabies vaccines is force of habit. Some vets have been giving cats shots every year for as long as they can remember (and these vets usually are old, so we’re talking about a long time). They see no reason to change their practices.

I disagree strongly with the philosophy behind the last reason. Rabies vaccines have been linked, in approximately one out of every 10,000 cats (but not at all in dogs), to a type of cancer (called fibrosarcoma) at the vaccine site. Those aren’t huge odds, but I see no reason to take any unnecessary chances.

Mitch, your best option is to talk to your vet. If the vet recommends a rabies vaccine for your cat, ask him why. Ask him to discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine before it’s given.

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