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I hear it all the time: “My cat stays indoors. Why does she need vaccinations?”
It seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? If cats don’t run the risk of encountering disease, why do they need core vaccines (or titers) every three years? Here are half-dozen good reasons your veterinarian wants you to keep your cat up-to-date on her
Your cat could accidentally get outdoors. Cats can slip out an open door before you know it. They are curious about that big, exciting world outside their windows and won’t hesitate to go exploring. Or a repairman or visitor could accidentally leave the door open, paving the way for your cat’s escape. You might retrieve her right away, or you might not realize she’s missing for several hours. That’s plenty of time for her to pick a fight with a stray cat carrying disease or have a run-in with a
rabid animal. Up-to-date vaccinations protect your cat against the unexpected.
If your cat ends up in a shelter, she could be exposed to sick cats. We hope that it never happens to our beloved pets, but as I noted above, cats can and do escape from their homes. If your cat is found, but has lost her collar or isn’t
microchipped, her next stop could be your local
animal shelter. That’s extremely stressful for any cat, especially one who is a homebody. Stress, in combination with crowded shelter conditions, can make
cats more susceptible to disease.
Your cat’s lifestyle could change. When you bring home that adorable kitten, you’re expecting to have her for life, I imagine. But sometimes life brings changes that are beyond our control. Divorce, death or a move to a new home can all affect your cat’s circumstances. You might
move to a new home where it seems safe to let her roam, or she might find herself living with a new family that allows her outdoors. There are plenty of cats in the world who started out as indoor kittens and later became
outdoor cats. We can never know what the future holds or assume that a pet cat will never come into contact with a feline carrying disease, so it's best to be prepared.
Stress could cause latent disease to flare-up. Many
cats are exposed to the feline herpesvirus at an early age, especially if they came from a crowded shelter or contracted the disease in utero. It’s highly contagious and can be spread between cats (but not to people or
dogs) through contact with discharge from the eyes, nose or mouth, or by sharing items such as
litterboxes and feeding dishes. Cats with weakened immune systems, young cats and flat-faced cats (such as
Persians) are especially prone to the disease. Vaccination doesn’t annihilate the virus — feline herpesvirus is the gift that keeps on giving; but vaccination can help keep it under control. The disease can flare-up, especially in cats without up-to-date vaccinations, causing respiratory infections and eye problems if an animal is stressed or sick.
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