Cats are the No. 1 domestic animal carrier of rabies in the United States. A bite from a wild animal is typically how a cat gets the virus –– and how that cat could then transmit it to a person. Once contracted, the disease is almost always fatal. Luckily, the rabies vaccine can protect your cat from this deadly disease.
Rabies is a dangerous virus that infects animals and humans worldwide. The virus is generally fatal in all species, and any warm-blooded animal can become infected. Foxes and skunks are implicated in many cases of exposure. Surprisingly, in the US, cats are more commonly involved in transmission of rabies to humans than dogs are.
Rabies vaccination of cats is required in many states across the nation, due to the deadly characteristics of the virus and the risk to human populations. In states and municipalities where feline rabies vaccination is required, veterinarians must follow applicable statutes.
The rabies vaccine is considered a core vaccine for cats.
This vaccine is administered by injection.
Available rabies vaccines may protect against rabies only or may be combination formulations that protect against other feline viruses like panleukopenia and rhinotracheitis.
While your veterinarian is always the best guide for making vaccination decisions, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2006 vaccination guidelines, the feline rabies vaccine is recommended according to the following schedule:
- Kittens receive a single dose as early as 8 or 12 weeks of age, depending on the product label.
- Administer two doses, 12 months apart for adults receiving vaccination for the first time, or for kittens older than 16 weeks of age at the time of initial vaccination.
- A booster is required annually or every three years, depending on the product label and state or local ordinance.
Administering a vaccine is a medical procedure, and there are times when a vaccine may not be recommended. For example, your veterinarian may advise against vaccinating an animal that is currently sick, pregnant, or may not have adequate immune system functioning to respond to a vaccination. For pets with a previous history of vaccine reactions, the potential risk of a future vaccine reaction should be weighed against the potential benefits of vaccination. These and other issues are evaluated when deciding what is best for your pet.
There is no known alternative to rabies vaccination.
A test to determine antibody levels (so-called “vaccine titers”) is available for rabies. Though not 100 percent indicative of a pet’s overall state of immunity against rabies, this test is sometimes used for regulatory purposes.
American Association of Feline Practitioners’ vaccination guidelines
This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.