“Dear Dr. D,
My cat is a healthy, young adult who never goes outside. I feed her a top quality food, and she is very happy. But, she HATES the vet. Are vaccines really necessary?
I am going to tell you the truth, and I may be tarred and feathered by my colleagues for it, but here goes.
Your indoor adult cat does not need vaccines every year. Once your kitten completes their initial series of vaccines, they don’t need them again for at least 3 years. Your elderly (over 10 years old) indoor cat could probably go even longer without vaccines, as long as there aren’t any new cats coming into the home. [Important disclaimer: Rabies vaccine is required by law, of course, and should be performed every 3 years for cats.]
But, since you asked the question… I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a story.
Have you noticed the orange tabby cat in my profile picture over there to the right? Here he is again:
For anonymity, let’s name him Buster. 🙂
Buster was about 4 years old when I saw him for the first time. He was pretty healthy (just a tiny bit overweight), never went outside, ate a high quality food, and was up to date on all his vaccinations. He was a perfect cat at home, happily lazing his days away as any cat should.
As his veterinarian, I performed a physical examination and recommended running a basic annual blood work panel (standard care in any veterinary practice, not to mention human medical practice). And I’m so glad I did…
Buster’s blood work revealed a problem, lurking quietly under the happy, healthy facade. He showed absolutely no clinical signs of the disease that was slowly developing within his body.
Buster was a diabetic.
More specifically, he was pre-diabetic. His body was starting to have problems regulating glucose, and without immediate intervention he was going to start showing clinical signs of full-blown diabetes.
I was so grateful that Buster’s owners were committed to allowing me to examine him and run blood work every year. Had Buster been to see me once every 3 years, his diabetes would have progressed and he only would have been in to the clinic once he was very sick.
Instead, I was able to adjust Buster’s diet, put him on a weight loss plan, and monitor his disease.
Buster never progressed to full diabetes because of our early intervention.
Buster is a wonderful success story, and only one example of what I want to tell every cat owner in the world:
The most important thing you can do for the health of your cat is have them examined by a veterinarian every year.
You’re probably thinking “Yeah, but Buster had a perfectly normal physical exam. The blood work is what revealed his disease.” And you are correct. Here’s the truth: Any veterinarian worth their degree is going to recommend blood work for every pet they see as part of their annual physical. It is imperative. So just assume that “annual physical exam” = “blood work”.
I can tell you so many other stories about cats with underlying disease that owners never suspected… kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, stress-induced cystitis, and arthritis… all of which can be detected and addressed by your veterinarian during an annual exam.
Here’s the bottom line: Your cat ages multiple “human years” for each of their cat years. A 4-year-old cat is similar to a 30-year-old human, and a 7-year-old cat is similar to a 50-year-old human. Do you think it would be okay to skip your physicals for 20 years? Probably not.
Do you hate taking your cat to the vet? Call Dr. D and avoid that trip altogether! House calls are a great way to get your kitty the care they deserve without the stress of the car ride and veterinary clinic.