Many indoor only cats go years or their entire life without vaccinations. If you are an owner of one or more indoor only cats and they are out of date on their vaccines, we understand your reluctance in keeping their vaccines up to date. However, the risk of exposure to disease could be higher than you think.

An example of unexpected risk

Not long ago I had an appointment with a pet loving family consisting of five people, two cats, and one dog. The family lived in a relatively populated area of Jefferson county. Both of the cats were indoor only cats. Unfortunately, one day their lives changed dramatically when a family member found a deceased bat in their basement. There was also some evidence on the bat that one of their pets may have had it in their mouth at some point. The family notified officials and the bat was tested for rabies. At the time the bat was found, one of the indoor only cats had been vaccinated for rabies but it was approximately 10 years overdue. The second indoor only cat had never been vaccinated for rabies. The dog in the family was up to date on its rabies vaccines.

The rabies positive bat meant that everyone in the entire family was at risk. All human family members had to undergo post-exposure treatment which ended up costing the family approximately $16,000. In addition, all three pets required rabies booster shots, and the cat that was previously unvaccinated required two additional booster shots. Lastly, the unvaccinated cat had to be quarantined for multiple months due to its heightened risk of contracting rabies. Fortunately, everyone in the family avoided contracting this deadly disease. They were not able to determine how the bat ended up in their house.

Rabies in the metro area

You might be thinking “this is so rare, it would never happen to me”. However, data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggests otherwise. As of October 3, there have been a total of 153 rabies positive animals confirmed in Colorado for 2019. In 2018, Colorado confirmed 325 cases. The large majority of these rabies positive animals were bats and skunks. In addition, many of the rabies positive animals were found in well populated counties such as Larimer, Jefferson, Denver, and Boulder county. An animal infected with rabies can exhibit abnormal behavior, increasing the likelihood of contact between the animal and a pet.

Vaccination is the solution

The primary takeaways here are the following:

  1. An indoor only cat that is unvaccinated has a higher risk of exposure to disease than you might think. This can happen by other animal bringing in a diseased animal, or through the direct entry of a diseased animal.
  2. This unvaccinated cat represented the highest risk patient I have ever seen for contracting rabies and it was an indoor only cat.
  3. Rabies is present in animals throughout the Denver metro area and disease transmission is minimized by vaccinating all pets, including indoor only cats.

Here at Sunshine Animal Hospital, we strongly feel that both outdoor and indoor only cats should be vaccinated for rabies. We have selected what we feel are the best vaccine products available on the market. For these products, significant adverse vaccine events are very rare. If you have additional questions regarding vaccinations or other wellness care topics, visit our wellness care page or contact us directly.

Written by Dr. Kristy Kreutzer
Sunshine Animal Hospital