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Feature April 2015 Issue

What About Indoor-Only Cats and Rabies?

Except for her routine checkup at the veterinary clinic, your cat never, ever leaves the comfortable confines of your home. All of the creature comforts that she could possibly want are just a hop, skip and jump away. So why in the world would she have to be vaccinated against rabies?

“Of course, the risk of exposure to the rabies virus is low for that indoor cat,” says Dr. Orla Mahony, “but there’s no absolute guarantee that she won’t escape. That does happen occasionally with indoor cats, and then they get bitten by a rabid dog or some other animal in the wild. You might not know that this has happened, and when you have the cat back in your house, you’ll be putting yourself at risk as well for getting a rabies infection.

“Another risk is that you might come home to find a bat in your living room — maybe dead, maybe alive. But you don’t know what sort of contact took place between your cat and that bat — and bats are known to be rabies carriers.”

There is one situation in which an indoor cat should perhaps not be vaccinated, says Dr. Mahony. “If your cat has had a history of rabies vaccine reaction,” she points out, “that might be a reason for concern. The problem you’d be most concerned about would be the development of a small, foreign-body reaction — a lump at the vaccine site that could conceivably transform into a malignant tumor. That’s what you should worry about most of all. In any case, you should discuss the situation with your veterinarian and weigh the benefits of vaccination against the potential risks.”

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