Cats in Australia are exposed to a number of highly infectious diseases, and outbreaks do occur occasionally around the country. Vaccination is a very important and necessary part of your cat’s preventative health program says Bondivets.
Indoor cats are becoming more popular with families who either live in apartments or who want to protect their cat against outdoor-related injuries. Tracy Stirzaker from Sydney has an indoor cat and wanted to know – do indoor cats need vaccination? We put the question to Cat Vet Dr Kim Kendall, The Chatswood Cat Palace. Dr Kim explains her views on indoor cats and vaccination protocols.
Pets4Life: Do indoor cats need vaccination?
Dr Kim: Indoor cats need vaccination MORE than outdoor cats because they get less regular exposure to the virus to stimulate ongoing immunity. Both Cat flu viruses and the enteritis virus remain active in the environment and can be transported on your clothes and feet, and cat flu will travel quite a way as airborne particles, so it really does not need direct contact for them to spread. Think of people travelling on airplanes now – nearly everyone will get the sneezes after a long flight!
I recommend that cats who are totally indoors, and whose owners never touch other cats, should be vaccinated every two – three years – or just before they go boarding or moving house for the common flu virus diseases. This is closer to the European view of vaccination than to the American view. However, if there is any question of stressful events intervening in your cat’s life such as boarding and even grooming then consider vaccinating prior to the problem arising. After all, vaccination is the only opportunity to be ahead of a problem and not trying to fix it!
Pets4Life: What is your vaccination protocol for both indoor and outdoor cats?
Dr Kim: I vaccinate for flu and enteritis as soon as possible for kittens (some lose their protection at six weeks old), then for flu, enteritis and chlamydia every three – four weeks till they are four months old. The kitten will sometimes get very tired after their vaccine – it nearly always means a good night’s rest for the owners! And being tired just means the kitten has a strong immune system, so best let the vaccine do its job.
The first booster is very important – at about 16 months old. I like to then vaccinate annually, that is, at two and half and three and half years old before going over to the Bi-ennial (two yearly) booster. If a cat goes boarding, then vaccination on entry is very useful – the immunity rises within hours of the vaccination.
Indoor or outdoor cats or those who do both and who have had a proper initial course of 3 or 4 vaccines before 2 years old, probably don’t need vaccination between the ages of 3 – 8 years because young cats maintain high levels of immunity naturally plus if they are going outside they are getting ‘micro-boosters’ from the environment where other cats have sneezed.
Pets4Life: Can you over-vaccinate a cat?
Dr Kim: In most cases of normal cats, no. Some though, have an over-reaction to vaccination (as it is possible to sensitive to any foreign material including food and fleas), and those cats need either less frequent vaccination or less vaccine in the dose.
Talk to your veterinarian about your individual cat’s vaccinations needs.
The Australian Veterinary Association’s Position Statement on cat and dog vaccinations.