Rabies is an exceptionally dangerous virus that is fatal for cats and other pets, fortunately, it is entirely preventable. Today, our Perry vets discuss the importance of the rabies vaccine for cats.
Rabies in Cats
In North America, the most common carriers of the rabies virus are skunks, bats, foxes, and raccoons.
Since the virus is spread through saliva and causes heightened aggression in animals suffering from its effects, the most common way for cats to become infected with rabies is through the bite of an infected animal.
Because of the severe risk that rabies poses to human health, most US states require that pets diagnosed with rabies be euthanized. All mammals are capable of catching rabies through the bite of an infected animal, which is why it's extremely important to protect your pet by ensuring that their rabies vaccinations are always kept up to date.
The prognosis after catching rabies is not good for unvaccinated cats, for whom the infection is most often fatal.
Cat Rabies Vaccine Schedule
The schedule for your kitty's rabies vaccination will vary depending on the brand of vaccine used.
Most vets offer vaccines without adjuvants - ingredients that proved effective in preventing rabies but caused an allergic reaction in some cats. These vaccines may or may not be more expensive than vaccines with adjuvants, which are just as effective at preventing rabies but have a higher potential for causing rare side effects, depending on the individual veterinary practice and any existing state legislation on rabies vaccination in cats.
Older non-adjuvant vaccines only lasted for a year, and so yearly booster shots were required. Newer vaccines have been developed which require a single booster a year after the first vaccination, followed by boosters every three years after that; these vaccines are considerably more expensive, however, so some veterinarians opt to stick with the older vaccine technology. If you ask your vet "how often should my cat have a rabies vaccine?" they will be able to tell you about what vaccination options they offer and what schedule is best for your cat.
Kittens should begin their rabies vaccination treatment at about 12 weeks old. If you haven't already, you can schedule your cat for all their routine vaccinations and other preventive care at Westmoreland & Slappey Animal Hospital.
Possible Cat Reactions to the Rabies Vaccine
Cat owners often have concerns about the possible side effects their cats could experience following their rabies vaccination. Pet Parents sometimes come to our Perry vets concerned about stories they have heard about "cats who have died from rabies vaccine". Fortunately, these fears are unfounded. Cat rabies vaccine side effects are rare and typically include only slight fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, and/or a localized swelling at the vaccine site.
In some excessively rare cases, a cat can have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, leading to hives, extreme weakness, and unexplained collapse. It's important for pet parents to know that fewer than 0.001% of cats will have allergic side effects to modern rabies vaccines. It is always safer to have your cat vaccinated against rabies than to risk potential infection in the future.
Why Indoor Cats Need Their Rabies Vaccine
Cat owners might believe vaccination against rabies is unnecessary if their cat is an indoor cat, but this is not the case. While it might be true that you don't allow your cat outside your home, the potential for escape--or worse, for an infected bat or rodent to break into your home, is great enough to warrant protection for your feline companion.
The consequences of rabies are simply too dire to take any chances, the best and only way to ensure your cat is completely protected against rabies is vaccination.
It is also the case that in most US states all cats and dogs over the age of 6 months are required to be vaccinated against rabies. When you take your pet to be vaccinated your vet will be sure to issue you with a certificate of vaccination as proof that your feline friend is up to date with their rabies vaccine.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.