'Get the Rabies Vaccine,' Screams Veterinarian


Q: Since my cat never goes outdoors, I don’t feel vaccinating for rabies is necessary. My veterinarian actually screamed at me, saying it was against the law not to vaccinate, and he wouldn’t take responsibility for what could happen. Well, what could happen? Are the rabies police going to arrest me? — S.H., via cyberspace

A: While she won’t scream at you, Dr. Lorie Huston, of Providence, RI, agrees with your veterinarian. This goes beyond the fact that in most states, vaccinating cats regularly for rabies is required by law.

It’s unclear what your concern is about vaccinating for rabies. Huston says that if you simply feel this protection is unnecessary because your cat stays indoors, she understands. Then again, what if your cat should get out? What might happen if a wild animal somehow entered your home?

“I recently had a raccoon find its way into a client’s home,” says Huston, president of the Cat Writer’s Association, and author of an Examiner.com blog.

“People think rabies doesn’t exist anymore, and it is certainly rare in our pets, but that’s only because we vaccinate,” Huston adds.

If a cat is not vaccinated for rabies, in most states the law mandates a quarantine period of several weeks away from the home as a result of potential exposure. That’s no fun for anyone. And owners pay for time in the quarantine facility.

There is a type of invasive cancer which may be associated with some vaccines, called feline vaccine associated sarcoma (FVAS). However, this cancer is increasingly rare, affecting less than 10 of every 10,000 cats vaccinated. Veterinarians following American Association of Feline Practitioner Vaccine Guidelines are even less likely to see this cancer. Most veterinarians reading this will agree that they haven’t seen a single case of FVAS in the past five years. And to lessen those odds even further, veterinarians are investigating the possibility of vaccinating the cat in the tail.

If cost is an issue, there are low-cost options in many communities, but we’re also talking about a vaccine that may only be required every three years.

If your cat has a history of a rare allergic response to vaccines,  your veterinarian can take precautions.

You didn’t mention your cat’s age or general health. In most states, when veterinarians have a reasonable medical explanation for not vaccinating, there is a legal dispensation.