Newton’s Purr-spective – Vaccinations

Newton sure is a smart cat and he always has something interesting and compelling to say. We at Cat Faeries do not vaccinate our house cats, ever, so while Newton isn’t quite on the same page as we are, we thought we’d present his viewpoint.

A visit to the vet for an annual checkup is a good idea, although it certainly doesn’t make my top 10 list of fun things to do! The exam is really a team effort involving the veterinarian and the cat caretaker. The caretaker observes activities at home (eating, drinking, playing, cat box use) and is likely to be very familiar with the cat’s body (e.g. lumps, sore areas etc.) Aided with these observations the veterinarian can investigate and recommend any tests needed for a diagnosis, should there be a problem. Many diseases/conditions have a good prognosis for recovery if caught early.

And if there are no problems? Kitty jumps back into the carrier and happily returns home. Wrong. This brings me to the real topic of this column – needles! I hate getting shots. But vaccinations are often part of the annual exam. Are they important for good health? Could they be harmful? Consider these two things the next time Kitty is due for an exam:

  1. Is it necessary to vaccinate every cat for everything every year?
  2. When vaccinations are required does your vet use high quality vaccines?
    The answer to the first question is no. This article by the American Veterinary Medical Association gives a brief overview of benefits and risks associated with feline vaccinations.

Don’t be afraid to ask about both frequency and brand of vaccine! Consider this true story. In the late 1990’s Ms. A. took Seymour to the vet for an exam and vaccinations. Yearly vaccines were no longer recommended for Seymour so that was good news. But then came the surprise. On previous visits Dr. Y had injected vaccinations in any convenient place. This time he explained that there was a new agreement among vets to give each type of vaccine in the same location (e.g. Rabies in the right rear leg). Occasionally tumors had been discovered at vaccination sites and if a lump developed it could now be tied to a certain vaccine if all vets followed the same protocol. At first this was mildly disturbing, to say the least. Then he said that the vaccines would be given as low on the leg as possible so an amputation could be done if the tumor proved to be cancerous! Yikes!!!

Yes, certain types of vaccines (containing an adjuvant) have been linked to cancerous tumors in cats. (Approximately one in every 10,000 cats will develop this tumor at the vaccination site.) An adjuvant (typically aluminum salt) is added to increase the strength of the immune response. This brings me to question number 2. Vaccines with adjuvant are cheaper, hence their popularity and prevalence despite the quality concern.

Newer, more expensive, vaccines do not require an adjuvant. They confer disease immunity and carry no risk of inducing cancer. One in 10,000 may seem like an acceptable risk to many people. But what if YOUR cat was the ONE?

What can you do to protect Kitty and observe local laws concerning Rabies vaccinations without putting your cat at risk?

  1. Remember that indoor cats require fewer vaccinations than their outdoor counterparts. Be sure your vet plans vaccinations appropriate for Kitty’s lifestyle. (i.e. no over-vaccination).
  2. Rabies vaccinations are important both for cats and to protect their human families. However, you can request that your vet draw blood to run a Rabies titer for antibodies. If your cat has adequate immunity a booster Rabies vaccination may be exempted.
  3. In all cases, if your cat does need vaccinations insist on knowing what type is used. If a) the vet/clinic staff won’t tell you, or b) the vaccines contain adjuvant then refuse the shot(s). Insist on honesty and quality. Your cat will thank you.

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