All cats, whether they live indoors or outdoors, should see a vet for annual checkups and care, which includes certain vaccines. However, vaccinations are even more important for outdoor cats since they are far more likely to come into contact with sick cats and other animals who are carrying various diseases. If you have an outdoor cat—or simply an indoor cat who goes outside on occasion—these are the three key vaccines they should have.
Rabies is a very serious viral disease that is always deadly once an animal starts showing symptoms. Most mammals can get and pass on rabies—including people. It's important that your outdoor cat be vaccinated for rabies, not only to protect them, but also to protect you. If your outdoor cat were to get in a scuffle with an infected cat, come home, and then bite you, then you could die from rabies. The rabies vaccine is very effective. Your cat should receive their first shot as a kitten, and they will then need a booster every one to three years, depending on the exact vaccine that is given.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia
This is one vaccination, but it protects cats from three diseases. It is often referred to as the FVRPC vaccine, for short. All three of these diseases can affect the upper respiratory tract, causing symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, and coughing. They are all highly contagious, and at least one of the viruses can linger on surfaces for weeks. If an infected cat was to rub up against a tree, and then your outdoor cat was to rub their face against the same tree, they could become ill. Cats need a few FVRPC vaccines when they are kittens and then a couple of additional booster shots as they continue to grow.
Feline leukemia, or FLV, is a contagious viral disease that can cause lethargy, respiratory symptoms, loss of appetite, and eventual death. It is passed from cat to cat via grooming and similar interactions. If your outdoor cat befriends another cat who has this disease, they could very likely become infected unless they are vaccinated. The FLV vaccine can be given once as a kitten with its annual booster shots.
Make sure your outdoor cat is protected with the three vaccines above. Talk to your vet to learn more about these vaccines and the diseases they prevent. Contact a veterinarian clinic, such as South Seattle Veterinary Hospital, for more information.