Does Your House Cat Really Need Vaccinating?

Most responsible cat owners have their pets routinely vaccinated. However, if your cat is a house moggy that never ventures outside, does he really need an expensive course of vaccinations every year? 

Before this question can be answered fully, it's important that you have an understanding of what vaccines do, the diseases they prevent, and why your vet recommends that you keep your pet's vaccinations up to date.

How vaccines work

Vaccines expose the cat's immune system to a modified version of a disease. When the cat's body detects the presence of the disease, white blood cells attack the invader (antigen) by producing antibodies. Infected cells are identified and 'killed' by the white blood cells and antibodies. Following exposure to the vaccine, the cat's body 'remembers' the antigen. If it's encountered again in the future, the cat can respond quickly and efficiently to kill off the disease before it develops.

What diseases could your cat be vulnerable to?

Feline enteritis: This is a potentially deadly disease especially in kittens and weak elderly cats. The virus is found in cat faeces. Affected animals show depression and loss of appetite, there may be vomiting and bloody diarrhoea accompanied by severe abdominal pain. Pregnant cats may suffer abortion or foetal abnormalities.

Feline respiratory disease (cat flu): Cat flu is a highly infectious airborne virus. It's spread when an infected animal coughs or sneezes. Following infection, cats often carry the virus for years although they exhibit no symptoms. Infected animals may have a fever, loss of appetite, may sneeze and cough, and have a sticky discharge from their eyes and nose. An infected animal can take anything up to six weeks to recover fully.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV): Both these viruses are untreatable and potentially fatal. They are spread directly from one cat to another in saliva, usually when cats fight. If your cat contracts FIV or FeLV, your vet will have no option but to put him to sleep.

Why regular vaccination is important for your cat

It's extremely important for your cat's health that his vaccinations are kept up to date. Immunity diminishes over time, and that's why your vet recommends that his protection is 'boosted' each year.

In addition, boarding catteries will not accept cats that are not fully vaccinated up-to-date. This could cause you a real problem if you want to go on holiday or have to go into hospital, and there's no one to look after your pet for you while you're away.

You should also note that many pet insurance companies will not pay for the treatment of a disease that could have been prevented had your cat been vaccinated.

Why indoor cats need vaccinating too

Even if your cat lives indoors and never ventures outside, he should still be vaccinated annually. Serious diseases can still enter your home either in the air or on visitors' shoes so your house cat could still become infected.

In addition, because your cat is isolated and lives away from other cats he will not develop a natural immunity through exposure to the environment and other moggies. Consequently, his level of immunity will probably be lower than cats that spend all or part of their time outside.

Even though your cat lives indoors and rarely ventures outside, he should still be vaccinated every year to keep him protected from serious diseases. Contact cat and dog vaccination services for advice, and to make an appointment for your cat to be vaccinated.