Cats can have more problems with vaccines than dogs.

vaccine sarcoma

Vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS)

Many people do not know that cats are at an increased risk to get cancer at injection sites.  Vaccine associated sarcomas (VAS) *can* occur with *any* type of needle injection, but are most commonly associated with killed adjuvanted vaccines.  This is not a common problem, but it is much greater issue in cats than in dogs, horses, or other animals.  For that reason, this vet adheres closely to the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s vaccination guidelines.  We modify our advice based on your cat’s life style and risk factors.   We are very sensitive to the problems certain types of shots can cause.  This is a known problem with killed rabies and leukemia shots in particular.

What shots do cats need?

We advise only what is needed for your pet based on state laws (rabies) and risk factors (everything else).  Not every cat needs every shot every year!  We will assess your cat’s risk factors and make a shot schedule that balances health risks with shot risks.


These are the AAFP recommended sites for the 3 shots we recommend routinely.

We do advise that every cat be up to date on rabies and distemper shots.  “Current” with distemper for us reflects age and risk factors, not just simple yearly re-vaccination.  Being “current” with rabies is a legal issue and a public health issue.   We DO have rabies in our area and state law requires ALL pets to be up to date on that shot.  NC state law does not care whether a cat stays inside or not.  It is important to test and protect young outside or inside/outside cats against feline leukemia (FeLV).

We carry and advise only the safest vaccines.

Rabies, 1 year or 3 year:


Rabies vaccines should be give at the right rear leg, as far down as the cat will permit.

We use only non-adjuvanted 1 year Merial Purevax modified live vaccines for rabies.   Purevax vaccines were developed because of the cat’s problems with killed shots.  They have no irritating additives and use a canary pox virus with a tiny piece of rabies virus attached.  This makes a good immune response with out adjuvants and without the risk of the cat getting rabies.  The chemical adjuvants in the inexpensive killed shots are one primary thing often associated with severe reactions in cats.  These reactions may include fever, swelling, lumps, and cancers.

We keep 3 year rabies vaccines (Imrab3) in stock as a less expensive 3 year alternative for the hard-to-catch or “difficult” cat, but we advise against it for routine use.   We now also have the non-adjuvanted Purevax 3 year licensed rabies shot.  The 3 year Purevax costs quite a bit more, but for certain cats, it may be well worth it.

Any mammal can get it, but rabies is most common in our area in bats, fox, raccoon and unprotected pets.

Distemper (FVRCP):

Intranasal distemper vaccines (originally made by Heska, then the license to make them was sold to Diamond) are used here to try to minimize any shot-related problems.  Because we use an intra-nasal shot (IN, nose drops, no needle), it is less irritating to the rest of the cat’s body.   Our cats do not run the risk of vaccine site sarcomas because we are not injecting anything into their bodies with a needle.  We use the local immune system in the cat’s nose to more quickly develop resistance to these viruses.   This vaccine gives faster protection (a few days) than needle shots and also bypasses the temporary immunity that kittens get from mom’s first milk.

Doing the nose drop shot actually *gives* the cat a very mild form of the diseases.  Therefore, we expect a little sneezing afterwards.  This makes our kitten series faster and more reliable, but very gentle on the cat.  Feline distemper is a cat “parvo”, and this shot also adds protection against several of the more common upper respiratory diseases as well, sort of like our flu shot.

Feline leukemia (FeLV):

Young outside cats or kittens who live with infected cats are at risk for getting feline leukemia.  This disease is a preventable retrovirus.  There is no cure for a cat infected with FeLV, but we can prevent it with a shot series.   FeLV is shed in urine and saliva.  Friendly cats will easily share it with one another by grooming each other and sharing food/water and litter areas.  We can test for it with a 10 minute blood test here in the office.  We use only the Merial Purevax FeLV vaccine because it is the safest and gentlest shot on the market for this disease.  Purevax is a non-adjuvanted shot that provides good protection against disease while reducing the risks of problems to cats.

The “annual visit” includes:

In a nutshell, our annual/wellness visits include the annual nose-to-tail physical exam.  We give a 1 year rabies shot each year.  Depending on your cat’s age and life style we may also give a distemper or FeLV shot.  Other than the legal issue of keeping the rabies shot current, the annual exam is the most important part of your cat’s checkup.  In checking out your cat as best (s)he will allow, we try to find issues early and prevent problems.  This also lessens the effects your wallet.  It is less costly for you and better for your cat’s health to catch a problem early.  You have 30 minutes of the doctor’s time to ask any questions you have about your cat.  Anything from odd behaviors to that funny smell or noise, we want to help you understand your cat.

We also advise yearly de-worming for inside cats, and quarterly de-worming for outside hunting cats with Profender.   Some pets may need blood tests for feline aids/leukemia, blood tests to monitor health issues, stool checks, etc.

Call for more information on pricing and to make an appointment.

Coastal Cat Clinic, Jacksonville North Carolina, 28540 | (910) 938-4515