Do indoor cats need to get their shots?

Is it necessary for a couple of indoor only cats to get their yearly immunizations?

The last time I read about the subject, it sounded like there was a lot of IMHO. What’s the current way of thinking about it?


Well, indoor cats get out every once in a while. And I suppose that it’s possible that if you’re a cat person, that you will be petting the occasional stray and maybe bringing some cat plague home unintentionally.

It’s also not unknown for wild critters to get inside (I’m thinking specifically of bats and the rabies vaccine here.)

So it’s probably a good idea to at least ask your vet.

Seconding the “ask your vet,” but mine said that as long as my kitties were always indoors and not exposed to any other outside animals, the only thing they needed was the legally required rabies shots.

We acquired two kittens a few months back and our vet said the booster shots for select feline diseses were needed. Rabies shots were not required because they are indoor cats.

Check with your own vet because YPMV*.

  • Your paws may vary

The vet called and left a message - time for rabies and distemper (sp?)

Seems like my friends that do nothing for their pets except water and the cheapest dry food, have the healthiest longer living animals

Even for indoor cats, its not a bad idea to also vaccinate them (at least once) against kitty AIDS (i.e. Feline Leukemia) considering how rampant it is.

But I’m not a big believer in yearly booster vaccines and I have two $800 Bengals.

The greatest thing you can do for this is keep them indoors!! Don’t let anyone convince you that outdoor cats are so much happier. Cats are fragile animals and will live ten times longer (and healthier) indoors.

I’d talk to the vet, and consider vaccinating against the most prevalent diseases (like the aforementioned FIV) since chances are, your cats will probably escape the house every once in a great while. It’s not unknown for strictly indoor cats to end up catching something on the one occasion they slip between your legs.

Weighed against the cost of the vaccinations and the small but present chance of a reaction to them, I don’t know if there is a clear answer.

Just wanted to clarify that Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is not the same thing as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV; commonly but mistakenly referred to as Feline Aids). They are two different diseases entirely. FeLV is, overall, much worse and much more dangerous for the cat.

Distemper is a nasty disease and a horrible way to die. If the side effects are few (my cats have never had a problem) get the rabies and distemper.

If you plan on getting more cats at any point, FIV and Leukemia are a must.

Talk to your vet before making any decisions.

Ever had a bat in your house?

Bats are a source of rabies virus. In my career I have seen a few cats that were unvaccinated due to indoor status, then had exposure to a bat. If the bat is rabid, euthanasia is what your health department will likely advise in a similar situation.


I guess we got lucky.
My huband found a kitten outside and brought it in.
We let him out all the time and I don’t think he (Twinky) ever went to the vet.

I disagree with the above because of something that a vet friend said to me:
“You may never intentionally let your cat out, but what if she were to bite someone who came over to your house? Wouldn’t you want to be able to prove she had had her rabies shot?”

Makes sense. I also get a distemper shot for her. Never know when she might need to go to the vet, etc. and be exposed to other kitty cooties.

We only had him about 2 years, after my son was born, Twink couldn’t handle my husband paying attention to the child so he sent him to the apl for adoption.
He was never sick, though.

To ad to what vetbridge said, in North Carolina at least state law mandates a rabies shot for all dogs and cats over the age of six months. There’s no exception in the law for an indoor-only animal. I suspect other states have similar laws; you can call your local animal control and find out.

True, animal control doesn’t normally bust down people’s doors looking for unvaccinated animals. At the same time, if your animal bites or scratches someone, or gets out and gets in a fight, or gets out and ends up at the animal shelter–in other words, if for any reason your pet gets involved with animal control–you may face additional fines for failure to vaccinate your animals.

Just some extra information to use in making your decision :).


Actually, in Pennsylvania there is an exemption for outdoor cats! When the law was written, legislators from agricultural areas complained that a farmer with 20 barn cats should not be required to have the animals vaccinated.

It is kinda funny how people expect an exemption for indoor only cats. When animal control investigates a cat without rabies vaccine people often argue that the cat is indoors only. Their argument pretty much sinks their chances of getting off.

Also, if you ever have to board or kennel your cat, I believe most if not all places require proof that the cat’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

(A friend of mine is moving and has to board her cat for two weeks, it is a purely indoor cat and so hasn’t had any shots for years. The $200 bill was an unexpected expense at an already expensive and stressful time for my pal.)

Another vote for “check with your vet.” Our cats are strictly indoors and they don’t get all shots every year, but they DO get their shots regularly (every 2-3 years). Our reasoning (and the vet’s)?

Heaven forbid they ever get out (fire, natural disaster, etc.), you want to make sure they are protected. Sometimes even permanently indoor cats will get out, through no fault of anyone’s really.

I am so on the fence about this. First of all, my cats are indoors only and have vet check ups every year. All three have had their initial shots and the two older have been vaccinated yearly. My youngest, Hanna, had all the initial shots kittens require.

A few years ago my oldest cat, Bo, had a cancerous lump removed that the vet suspected could be a vaccine related lump. It scared the crap out of me. A lump from something I did to him, thinking it was best for my cat to be vaccinated, even though he never goes out. So I’ve only been getting rabies for my cats. I’ve been rethinking this lately, I’d be upset with myself if they ever did get something preventable.

For me, it isn’t about the money vaccines cost, it is the (very small) chance of vaccine-related problems.

I still haven’t made up my mind.