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Does My Indoor Cat Need Vaccines?

This question comes up weekly so we figured it was time to write a blog post about it.

The short answer is YES.  The long answer is more complicated.

Let’s start with what we are vaccinating against. We often refer to the ‘core’ vaccine or ‘upper respiratory’ vaccine or ‘FVRCP’.  This is all the same vaccine and it stands for Feline Rhinotracheitis-Calici-Panleukopenia Vaccine.

Most cats are exposed to Rhinotracheitis during their life time and it usually only causes a mild case of sneezing and runny eyes.  In really young cats who do not have immunity against it the effects can be more severe and occasionally result in permanent damage to the nasal cavity causing cats to have chronic nasal discharge or chronic low grade disease.  Older pets as well are more at risk as their immune system is less able to deal with minor infections and a ‘kitty cold’ in them can quickly become pneumonia or another serious issue.

Calici Virus is another pathogen that most often causes mild respiratory issues, but there are virulent strains out there that we see every year that can cause severe ulceration of the oral cavity, vasculitis and occasionally death.

Panleukopenia is sometimes referred to a feline distemper or feline parvo.  In young cats, it is highly contagious and it causes vomiting and diarrhea often resulting in death.    The FVRCP vaccine is given 3 times as a kitten and then again 1 year later and then every 3 years.  Continued vaccination means that if your cat is exposed to any of the upper respiratory virus’ they are more likely to only have a mild cold and not end up truly sick.  All of the virus’ are highly contagious and difficult to destroy, this means you can easily carry it home on your clothes or shoes after visiting a friends  new kitten, the neighbours outdoor cat or those cute kitties up for adoption at the adopt-a-thon.  Because they are so common if your cat does ever have to be boarded or come to the vet because they are sick there is a high chance they will be exposed to them despite our best efforts.  Once cats have received their final booster at one year of age we do recommend this vaccine is given every 3 years to maintain immunity and minimize the effects of any accidental exposure even in house cats.

The Rabies vaccine is usually given at the final kitten vaccine and again every year after.  While we do not see a lot of cases of Rabies there are a number in our province every year and in the past few years a bat was found with Rabies in downtown Calgary and a cat died of the disease in Red Deer.  Rabies is 100% fatal in affected animals and animals who have it can act in unpredictable ways.  That is why we recommend that even indoor cats are vaccinated.  The most common cause of Rabies in cats is because a bat got into the house.  It is also a common route of exposure for people here in North America.  While the Rabies vaccine is not required by law here in Alberta it is in a number of other provinces and is needed to cross the border with your pet. Dr. Kean saw a puppy with Rabies who had been rescued from the NWT and unfortunately, she had bitten another dog in the house so both pets had to be euthanized as the other pet was not up to date on his Rabies vaccine.  While there is a 3-year rabies vaccine on the market we choose to use the non-adjuvanted vaccines here as they are considered infinitely safer for protecting against injection site sarcomas.   Due to cost we do not yet carry the non-adjuvanted 3-year Rabies vaccine.  If this is something that interests you please let us know and we can look into it again.

The final vaccine that we recommend is the feline leukemia vaccine.  Kittens can be born with the leukemia virus or cats can get it by bite wounds or other saliva transfer from an infected cat.  As cats age (ie greater than 10 years of age) they seem to develop some degree of immunity to the leukemia virus.  Because of this we recommend the leukemia vaccine twice during the kitten series (especially if they are going to go outside) and again at the first year booster.  If your cat is exposed directly to other cats we recommend continuing the vaccine yearly until they are older and then we will often decrease to a every 2 year schedule or less based on how much exposure your individual cat is getting.

So that’s the long answer to why you should vaccinate even your indoor cat.  Not every cat is going to need every vaccine at each visit but let’s discuss what the risks and benefits are for your cat.

Dr. Tasha Kean



The Importance of Microchips

A microchip is a small chip that is placed under the skin between the shoulders. The needle we use is larger than a typical blood collection needle, though other than the initial poke does not cause any ongoing pain. Each microchip has a unique number that is retrievable with a special scanner that all veterinary clinics and rescue associations have. When a found cat is brought to a clinic or rescue facility, it is checked for a microchip by running the scanner over the body. The number populates off the scanner which can then be put into a search system which will tell us which company it is registered with. There are many different microchip companies out there, so it is important to know which one your cat has so you can keep your contact information up to date. We can then call the company linked to the chip, who can then give us the contact information that you provided when it was registered so we can get in contact with you! The companies are instructed to only provide your contact information to an animal professional or to the owner. Microchips are NOT tracking devices; they need to be scanned in order for your furry family member to get home to you. There is a small fee to get your cat microchipped but no monthly cost afterwards. However, some microchip companies do charge a small fee to update addresses and other contact information. What is the difference between a microchip and tattoo? Tattoos are slowly becoming a less common form of identification. Tattoo quality can decrease over time due to aging, quality of the tattoo to start, and other environmental changes that can affect the skin of the ear. What this means is that a well-done tattoo 10 years later can be difficult to read due to the blurring of the letters and numbers over time. This change can make it nearly impossible sometimes to identify the collection of digits which is a big problem since that combination is unique to a clinic and cat! A microchip does not age over time but in rare instances can travel from the shoulders, which is why we scan the entire cat for a chip before determining that they do not have one. Additionally, tattoo information is often kept on paper, while microchips are all digital. It is very important to microchip your cat! We often get comments about how indoor only cats do not require them and if anything, it’s actually the opposite! Indoor cats accidentally getting out are where most of our phone calls about missing cats come from. This is because they’re not supposed to be outside and are likely not equipped to hunt and fend for themselves. So, when a neighbour sees an unfamiliar neighbourhood cat and takes it to a clinic to have scanned, it now has no form of identification to get home to you and is taken to the city in the hopes of an owner coming forward and claiming them.

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Last updated: May 25, 2020

Dear Clients,

With recent changes to restrictions on businesses, we are pleased to advise that effective May 25, 2020 the restrictions on veterinary practices have been lifted. Based on these changes, below are some important updates to our operating policies.


This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, heartworm testing, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!



If you wish to connect with a veterinarian via message, phone or video, visit our website and follow the "Online Consultation" link.


Have you welcomed a new furry family member to your home? We’d love to meet them! Visit our Must Know New Pet Owner Information page for useful resources and helpful recommendations for new pet owners.


We are OPEN with the following hours:

Monday to Friday: 8:30 am - 5:30 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
Sunday: CLOSED

Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to seeing you and your furry family members again!

- Your dedicated team at Killarney Cat Hospital