You've heard the news reports of wildlife or stray animals with rabies. But are your family felines at risk, too? If your cat ever comes in contact with another animal, she could be at risk. A quick vaccination from your veterinarian could save your kitten's life.
Why Rabies Vaccinations Are Important
Cat vaccinations, especially for indoor cats, are often overlooked. However, a rabies vaccination is an important part of keeping your cat healthy. If your feline friend goes outside, a rabies vaccination is an absolute necessity. Rabies is transmitted from an infected animal through a bite or scratch, so just a small scuffle with an infected animal could pose a threat to your cat. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for cats who develop rabies, so prevention is the only way to protect your pet. A simple vaccination once a year can protect your kitten from a potentially life-threatening disease.
Safe Age for Vaccinations
To help keep kittens healthy, most veterinarians agree on a set of important vaccinations, including rabies. Some vaccinations, like feline distemper and calicivirus, are usually started when kittens are 6 weeks old, and then boostered two to three times. But rabies vaccinations are a little different. Most vets don't like to give a rabies vaccination until a kittens is 12 to 16 weeks old, and usually not at the same time as other vaccinations. If kittens are vaccinated earlier than 12 weeks, they may have a reaction to the vaccine or may not develop the right antibodies. Unlike the other vaccinations your kitten needs, a rabies vaccination doesn't need a booster, but it does need to be repeated either every year or every three years, depending on the type of vaccination your veterinarian uses.
Vaccinating Adult Cats
If you adopt a new adult cat who hasn't had a rabies vaccination, it's a good idea to head to the veterinarian as soon as you can. While some vets don't do as many vaccinations for adult cats, rabies is still considered an important part of keeping your feline friend healthy. In many clinics, you now have the choice of a one-year or three-year rabies vaccination for adult cats.
Rabies Laws in the United States
Each state sets its own rabies vaccination requirements. Even for feline companions that never go outside, many states require rabies vaccinations as young as 3 months. At least 60 percent of states require rabies vaccinations for cats, and regulations in some cities and counties push the percentages even higher. In the states that don't require a vaccination, most veterinarians still encourage them to keep kitties safe.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Feline rabies. ABCD guidelines on prevention and management.
- Dogs4Dogs: Rabies Laws in the United States
- WebMD: Vaccinations for Kittens and Cats
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks
- WebMD: Pet Vaccines: Schedules for Cats and Dogs
- Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images