Indoor cats do need some vaccines, even against Rabies! Their indoor status does mean they will be less likely to be exposed to some diseases, but that is not the same as protecting them.
Let's talk about Rabies first, because Rabies is a uniformly fatal disease that has no treatment and is transmitted to people by their pets. Rabies virus is transmitted generally by saliva to blood contact, most commonly by a bite wound. The virus enters the body and travels up nerves to infect the brain, effectively poking holes in the brain of the patient and causing death by encephalitis over 4-10 days. Rabies can be expressed in the dumb form- blankness, drooling, lack of expression or the mad form- drooling and blindly attacking/biting. The incubation time (from bite to sickness) can be days to months after the bite.
Why should you protect your indoor cat? Very simply, because it is required by law. But there are many other reasons it makes sense.
If your pet bites or scratches someone and you cannot prove they are Rabies vaccinated you can be sued (liability issues) or more alarming, the law can require your pet be tested for Rabies. Currently Rabies testing can only be done by biopsing the brain, requiring that your pet be euthanized (humanly killed) to be tested.
Are you sure your cat will never go outside? Never wander or accidently get out? How about if you find a bat in your home? Bats carry Rabies, and having a bat indoors is a common exposure for the indoor only cat. Keep in mind that rabid animals act abnormally, so having a rabid raccoon or skunk get into your garage or basement has been known to happen. The other problem with bats in the house is we often do not recognize that a bat has gotten into the house until after the fact. The bat gets in, the cat hunts it down and plays with it or eats it. We may never see it, yet the cat was exposed. Unknown exposure to a rabid animal is even more dangerous than known exposure.
From the veterinarian's perspective, the ability to rule out Rabies is a good reason to Rabies vaccinate the cat. Diagnosing neurologic diseases is difficult, even more difficult when the patient cannot speak to you. If a cat has neurologic symptoms and is not protected by Rabies vaccination, the veterinarian cannot take Rabies off the list of potential causes for those symptoms. That makes diagnosing and treating that cat's disease even more difficult and costly. When we know the cat is protected by Rabies vaccination, we can immediately look for other diseases and ignore the possibility of Rabies.
Please make sure your indoor pet is Rabies vaccinated!
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