Informed Consent For Cat Vaccinations

All vets should provide full information to cat caretakers about the pros and and cons of cat vaccinations so that they can consent to the procedure armed with all the information that they need to make a good decision that is in the interests of the cat. What percentage do?

Cat vaccination recommendations – in the rear leg to minimise adverse reactions. Photo: by Chuckumentary

Alternatively, the vet can go one step further and actually suggest, on occasion – when the circumstances are right – that it is not wise to vaccinate. That is turning away business. That will hurt some vets in the short term. In the long term vets who suggest this will thrive economically and beat the opposition as it will engender trust and promote the integrity of the veterinarian. I am sure that many vets have already decided to do this.

However, due to the long standing routine of cat vaccinations, many veterinarians have inadvertently programmed or indoctrinated people into believing that vaccinations should take place yearly without regard to many other factors that include the risks of vaccines and the variable need to vaccinate depending on the circumstances.

Examples of circumstances that mitigate the need to vaccinate are:

  • in the location where the cat is living most cats are vaccinated and so an island of natural protection has been created which mitigates the need to automatically vaccinate.
  • many vaccinations are unnecessary for an old cat that lives indoors full-time. Rabies is not one of them.

When I write of ‘cat vaccination’ please presume that the same principles apply to other animals, primarily dogs.

Vaccinations are about risk. It is as simple as that. In which case there is a need to balance risk, to make decisions on the best information available. The buck stops with the cat’s caretaker. I know that many, if not most, cat owners make a presumption that certain vaccinations must take place yearly. It is a habit as entrenched as having breakfast in the morning.

Kitten in veterinarian's surgery getting ready for a vaccination.

Kitten in veterinarian’s surgery getting ready for a vaccination. Photo: by Nottingham Vet School

The balance of ‘risk’ that I am writing about is the slight potential for the vaccination to cause injury to the cat which is set against the risk of the infection that the vaccination is designed to prevent.

There has been a gradual enlightenment amongst veterinarians about the adverse reactions from vaccinations. One consequence has been the change in practice of delivering certain vaccinations in the leg of the cat. If cancer is caused by the vaccination the leg can be amputated rather than the cancer killing the cat. It sounds rather basic but the change in recommended procedure gives me a strong indication that there is a real risk, albeit slight, of cancer in the skin from certain vaccinations and an admission of that by the veterinarians.

This is a complex and developing subject – even veterinarians are learning about the dangers of vaccinations and how to avoid them. Accordingly, I won’t go into it in detail. That is the role of your veterinarian if he or she genuinely has the welfare of your cat at heart rather than the making of a profit.

Without wishing to be overly cynical, let’s remind ourselves that yearly vaccinations are a wonderful ‘product’ for a commercially minded vet. A veterinarian can do all kinds of add-ons at the time of the vaccination, one of which, incidentally, in America, is declawing. There are many others because the vet has you in the surgery where he or she can sell you another service. The concept of routine visits or purchases in any field of business is prized as a good business model.

It might be fair to say that in general many veterinarians are still vaccinating unnecessarily. If so your cat is being put under unnecessary risk of injury at a vet’s surgery, the precise place where the opposite should occur.

An example of the short-term adverse reactions to vaccinations are:

  • allergic reaction
  • anaphylactic shock
  • seizure

As for long-term injury these are examples:

  • cancer
  • hair loss
  • skin disease

I have an example, myself. My vet is excellent and he agreed that Charlie did not need a vaccination because the area where he lives is free of the disease in question due to widespread vaccinations. As for my late, old lady cat, I pretty well stopped having her vaccinated in the last four years of her life.

cat vaccinations balance of risk

The key to making decisions about cat vaccinations is to treat them as a balancing act between catching the disease that the vaccination protects against and the health problems associated with the vaccination itself. Your vet has an obligation under his oath to explain that and go into detail so you can make an informed decision. Insist on it.

There is a petition about this on

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Informed Consent For Cat Vaccinations — 8 Comments

  1. Honestly Micharl, i personally feel that indoor cats living in an enclosed environment like apartments dont require yearly vaccinations after the first initial dosagw of kittenhood.Both my Traditional Persian cats were innoculated as kittens in the first year and since then i have never got them innoculated for either “Rabies” nor “Virus” innoculations.Queen cat Matahari is now 5 years old and her kitten matata is 3 years old.I have taken Matahari to the vet for other medical treatments like abscess formation and laceration treatment but never for her yearly “INNOCULATIONS”.As for tomcat matata , he is the ultimate model of a robust and healthy cat, never having to visit the veterinarian since his innoculations after kittenhood nin 2009! For an “INDOORS CAT”, annual innoculations are not necessary.

    • I agree completely with you Rudolph. In the USA rabies vaccinations are recommended even for indoor cats but I personally believe that vaccinations are in general overdone and vets have generated this money making routine. But I am a bit cynical!

  2. I have two kittens and I honestly dont know if or what vaccinations to give them. I have read so much about it and still find it hard to decide. Where I live I am sure just about every cat has gotten yearly vaccinations. My vet did say that my last cat did not need a leukemia shot because his mother does not have leukemia. That was pretty decent of him I suppose since he could have just told me it’s a must. I don’t know what to do but the time for their operations is coming and of course this is when they will suggest various shots to be given. I know people who are very anti them, and people who just do them all as instructed, each year. I know of cats who have died from vaccine related sarcoma.. and other horror storys. I rarely hear about bad things happening as a result of not having them though. Any compelling advice as to what I should do with my young kittens?

    • I am a bit confused too. But I don’t see any humans having vaccinations every year (other than the new flu jab that is voluntary and highly dubious as to effectiveness). Cats are similar to humans. And I do not take my cats to the vet for booster vaccinations. That sounds extreme perhaps but so far there has been no adverse consequences. I have a strong feeling that a large number are unnecessary in the same way a yearly car service is unnecessary. Doctors like to administer drugs and all drugs are poisons in some shape or form. Good luck Marc in making your own decision. If we had a full information disclosed to us we could make an informed decision. We don’t.

      • Seems like a first ‘set’ of shots is a good idea, and the ‘boosters’ are not. I will ask him what the first ‘set’ consists of and then read up on what he tells me just to make sure they really are all considered necessary.

        • Sounds right. I just think vaccinations need to be given thought and be less automatic. It depends on the circumstances. At the moment, a lot of the time, it is a routine.

  3. The trouble is until all vets admit vaccinations can cause problems and that it is unnecessary to have yearly boosters, people who leave their cats in catteries while they go on holiday will continue to put their cats at risk from the possible short term/long term problems over vaccinating can cause, because catteries (here in the UK anyway and I assume other countries too)won’t accept boarders without an up to date certificate of vaccinations.

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