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Do I Really Need To Get My Indoor Cat A Rabies Vaccine?

So we all know that you can’t get a dog license without having an up to date rabies vaccine certificate but cats don’t need to be licensed so do you really need to bother getting a vaccine? Let’s find out!

Edit: It is the law in Massachusetts to get your cat vaccinated for rabies however we want to educate people about why it’s important.

Most of us over a certain age were traumatized by Ol’ Yeller enough that we know the basics of rabies: foaming at the mouth, random attacking, growling and snarling, eventual death. But does anybody even get rabies any more? The good news is not often. While over 40,000 people in the US are treated for exposure to rabies each year there are only 1-3 human cases of confirmed and fatal rabies each year in the US. Pet-wise, only about 10% of rabies cases reported each year occur in pets. As long as you and your cat don’t live anywhere near the other 90% of animals that make up the rest of the rabies cases you should be OK. What are those animals, you ask?

Raccoons

Skunks

Bats

and Foxes

So basically, if you live in New England or, you know, the world, you’d better keep reading.

I have an Indoor cat, that’s no problem for me!

This argument reminds me of the time my then-9 year old son was climbing up on a retaining wall. He was about 5 feet up walking along the edge when I said, “You’re gonna fall.”

“No I’m not!” he replied

Then he fell.

The point being that anyone who’s had indoor cats will tell you that it’s unrealistic to think they will never, ever escape. They’re cats. They’re going to decide to escape some day just to prove you’re not the boss of them. Then they’re going to sit down and take a bath 5 feet from you until you go to pick them up and then they will flounce away just out of your reach to sit down and bathe again. This is what they do.

OK fine. So my cat may escape someday. What’s the worst that could happen?

That’s a fair question. Here’s a possible scenario. Fluffy escapes one day. She’s gone for a bit and when she finally comes home she has a wound. You don’t know where it came from or how she got it but it’s kind of deep (maybe a bite? A scratch?) and you just don’t know so you need to get it checked out. You take Fluffy to the vet. Here’s where things get interesting.

If Fluffy has an up to date rabies vaccine the vet will treat the wound, give her a booster shot just to be safe, and send you both home. Maybe $100-ish? Maybe less? Depends on your vet but not the end of the world. You continue on with your lives.

If Fluffy doesn’t have an up to date vaccine the vet is required by law to put her in quarantine until it can be determined whether she’s carrying rabies. Rabies tends to incubate for awhile and if you can’t prove where the wound came from there is a possibility, no matter how remote, that she could have the disease it and transmit it for weeks before showing symptoms. What that means for Fluffy is a lengthy quarantine period with the vet (state rules for how long vary, some are 6 months) that you get to pay for. Now you’re talking about thousands of dollars. Oh, and if Fluffy scratched you or broke your or a family member’s skin in any way while you were checking her wound, bundling her into the carrier, etc… You get to join those 40,000 people who have to undergo preventative treatment. It’s series of shots. Not one. A series.

So trust us when we say that $25 for a rabies vaccine for your cat at our clinic on March 17th is really something you should do.

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