How Often Do Cats Need Rabies Shots?

Your cat should be vaccinated against rabies if he spends any time outside.
i cat image by Krzysztof Kiercul from

All states have rabies vaccine-related laws, although not all laws require cats to be vaccinated against rabies. Unfortunately, even indoor cats can be exposed through contact with wildlife during an unexpected escape. Minimize any risk your cat might have by keeping him up to date on this important vaccine.


Until about 2006, most states required annual rabies vaccines for dogs and many required the same for cats. If your cat has never had a rabies vaccine before -- and if your state requires cats to have rabies shots -- then you must repeat the vaccine within the 12th month after the first shot. Unless you allow his rabies protection to lapse, then you and your cat are home free for another three years. Check the laws in your state and in your municipality to determine what laws apply to your pet.

Every Three Years

Currently, every state in the union has a three-year protocol for the rabies vaccine, following the second annual vaccination. However, this law typically refers to dogs, not cats. If your city requires your cat to be licensed, you might need to get him more frequent vaccinations to comply with those requirements. Check the laws in your city or township to determine its requirements for cats, even if your state’s rabies-related laws do not cover cats.

In States with No Minimum Requirement

Ask your cat’s veterinarian for her professional advice if your state does not require cats to be vaccinated for rabies. If your vet has no specific recommendation, consider vaccinating your cat every three years following two annual vaccinations. Doing so may protect your family, as well as your cat, and will contribute to your peace of mind.

The Rabies Threat

Rabies is a preventable viral disease that attacks the central nervous system. It is nearly 100 percent fatal to animals. Cats, along with dogs and cattle, are among the animals most often reported as rabid. Unvaccinated cats permitted to roam outside are the most at risk of contracting rabies, but any unvaccinated cat can contract rabies through incidental contact with a rabid animal. Pet cat vaccination is a vital part of rabies control, as is preventing your cat from roaming. When it comes to keeping your cat safe from rabies, it is better to vaccinate him every three years regardless of any requirements, rather than to not vaccinate him at all.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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