[First published: 10 Mar 2019, Last updated: 12 Oct 2019)
Question: We will be travelling for the holidays, and plan to place our cat at your cat boarding hotel. He is a 100% indoor cat who does not share the home with other pets. My vet has even told me that it will not be necessary for him to have a booster shot as he is physically healthy as well. Do I need to re-vaccinate him?
Vaccinations are a common topic at the Nekoya Cat Hotel. Especially within the constraints of a cat-friendly shared space, it is important that we raise awareness of a broader topic that supersedes the routine of yearly booster shots and vaccinations – Protection against disease in cats.
Why Enforce Vaccinations?
In places where a number of cats from different environments are brought together and reside in close proximity of one another, the chances of cat viruses and diseases spreading is greatly heightened. Not only are feline viruses very good at adapting and thriving in new environments, leaving your cat’s health to chance and insisting on boarding it without adequate protection is ill advised.
It is our job as your cat’s caretakers to inform all guests of the risks involved in boarding their cats, explain the importance of protecting them, as well as ensuring that unsuitable cats are, in unfortunate cases, rejected for boarding in order to ensure the pristine cleanliness of our facility.
Conversely, it is your job as your cat’s owner to make informed decisions for the benefit of your cat’s health and wellbeing. Assuming proactive measures in ensuring your cat’s level of protection against disease not only makes for a happy cat, saves you money by having to avoid costly veterinary fees associated with treating contagious viruses and illnesses, and lastly, prevents you from going through unnecessary emotional stress associated with caring for a terminally ill feline companion.
Many cat boarding facilities in Singapore do not require cats in their care to be up to date with their vaccinations. This may be convenient, and cost saving for the owners, and the caretakers may also maintain that your cat will be kept away from other cats by being boarded in separate rooms. However, this only protects your cat against contracting illnesses from cats in its immediate vicinity. There are a few critical loopholes to consider here-
1) How large is the room that your cat will be kept in?
The larger it is, the more surface area there is to disinfect. Is it truly possible for you to uphold the cat boarding facility and its staff to clean every single nook and cranny, including but not limited to articles such as bedding, toys, and food bowls?
2) How thoroughly has the room been cleaned?
A room that has been previously occupied by an unvaccinated tenant could harbour a lot of potential for viruses to live in and easily infect the next cat.
If the cat boarding facility does not insist on a standard of lodging requirements for each of its guests to be admitted, is it not unfair to future tenants who may be concerned about their cat’s safety?
For cats to board at the Nekoya Cat Hotel, we require that they are:
- Not FIV, FeLV or FVR Positive or a carrier of an infectious disease
- Sterilized if over 8 months of age
- Vaccinated within the past 12 calendar months OR;
- In possession of a titer test for proof of vaccine antibodies
- Free of fleas, ticks, mites, and other parasites
- In physically good health and not feeling ill
- Not aggressive towards strangers
Together, these boarding pre-requisites ensure that the presence of any cats in our care do not, to the best of our efforts, jeopardize the health and safety of other cats or staff working in our facility. We are one of the only cat boarding service providers in Singapore committed to strictly enforcing these requirements, and will not accept cats who are non-compliant.
The Dangers of Being an Unvaccinated Cat
For all cats in Singapore, it is recommended that they receive the FVRCP vaccine for the following primary infectious agents:
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR)
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis is caused by the feline herpes virus. It can be easily contracted by cats with weakened immune systems, or in the case of cats being boarded, contracted during times of physical or emotional stress. An infected cat need only cough or sneeze near yours, or your cat may contract the virus by coming into contact with a human who had previously handled an infected cat.
Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
Feline Calicivirus is an extremely common respiratory infection. In severe cases, pneumonia can develop, or cause death, especially in kittens and older cats. Calicivirus can be most often found in shelters, catteries, as well as multi-cat households that may or may not be poorly ventilated. It is highly contagious and can cause all cats within the vicinity to contract it.
Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)
Panleukopenia; or Feline Distemper, is most commonly seen in young kittens or unvaccinated cats. It is so contagious that infected cats can die within 12 hours of the onset of the virus. The surprising thing is that most cats, regardless of their living environments, would most likely have come into contact with it, through the secretions of other animals or from people who have handled infected cats. In this case, vaccination could be the difference that saves your cat’s life.
When and Why You Should Vaccinate
All cats, regardless of whether they reside indoors or outdoors, should receive their FVRCP vaccines. All three core infectious agents are transmitted through the air. This means that as long as your cat is leaving the home and entering a shared, open environment of which you have no control over, it is recommended that regular booster shots are received, so that your cat’s immune system remains ready to respond to any diseases.
The veterinary standard for vaccinations mandate that cats should receive annual FVRCP booster shots, with the initial shot being received at kittenhood. If your cat is going to be boarded while you travel overseas, it is recommended that they receive their vaccinations at least 2 weeks prior to entering the boarding facility.
What If I Don’t Want to Over-Vaccinate My Cat?
For cat owners who do not wish for their cats to receive booster shots of vaccinations yearly, for fear of over-vaccination, an alternate solution exists – Titer tests. These can be done relatively affordably at around $50 in Singapore, depending on your veterinary clinic of choice.
What is a Titer Test?
According to VacciCheck, [a titer test] measures antibody levels in felines to determine vaccination status, and prevent consequences associated with over/under vaccination. Titer tests are accurately able to determine the level of protection in your cat to core diseases, and enable veterinarians and owners to make better vaccine-related decisions. Essentially, a cat who scores well on its titer test does not require a booster shot!
Does Nekoya Accept Titer Tests?
Yes. The Nekoya Cat Hotel is currently the only cat boarding facility locally to accept titer tests in place of vaccinations. We recognize that titer testing is sufficient and effective in helping us determine if our feline guests possess adequate levels of vaccine-induced protection against contagious viruses. Making the move to accept titer tests is also progressive and forward-thinking, and encourages each of our clients to consider the best method of protection against diseases for their cats.
We hope this short article was useful in educating fellow cat owners about the importance of protecting your cat against diseases. For those interested in titer tests, we recommend visiting Amber Vet; our partnering veterinary clinic!