Is it okay for cats to feel "off" after vaccines?

quasifishJanuary 2, 2013

It's almost time for our 3.5 yo male cat to get his three year vaccines, and this is nagging me a bit, so wanted to get some feedback from some of you...

After each of his past vaccinations (rabies in particular), he has been "off" for 20-22 hours afterward. He just wants to sleep, prefers not to be touched, doesn't seem to be running a fever, and then at the 20-22 hour mark, it is like someone throws a switch and he seems back to normal, eating like a horse, being lovey, playing, etc.

I've read conflicting information about whether this is okay or not- some reports are that this is not uncommon and as long as the cat seems okay in 24 hours, it is fine, and other information indicates that they should have no reaction. In my mind it is introducing a foreign substance that the immune system is forced to deal with, so it makes sense if he is not himself for a short time following them.

The plan right now is to take him in for an exam and vaccines early in the day and week (a week or two from now), so we can watch him more closely throughout the day. I'll run this by the vet as well, but I'm trying to get some ideas as to how abnormal this may or may not be. FWIW he is a very high strung cat, you cannot hold him in your arms and set one foot out the back door without him freaking out, so it is also very, very stressful for him to make such a big trip in the car to a strange place that smells of strange animals- but who knows how much of a role that plays in his behavior for the following day.



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My terrific cat vet says it is normal for them to have a reaction that may last 24 hours. My cat had a slight reaction the last time but it lasted maybe 12 hours and she was back to her normal noisy self. Even people can have reactions to vaccines.

I don't know where you live or if you take him to a dog/cat vet or a cat-only vet but the cat-only vets seem to be less stressful for the cat - and the person. My cat is very calm compared to many but she has done much better at the cat-only vet than when I took her to a cat/dog vet with barking dogs running all over. She hates dogs.

Good luck with your kitty.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 12:38PM
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It's very normal, and your vet should be explaining this to you.
Like oregpsnow, I take my cat to a cat-only vet and find it's a very calm experience for my cat.

I would suggest you buy a carrier(soft or hard-side) and leave it open for your cat to explore and sleep in thru the year. Then when it's time to travel, it won't be so traumatic for him.

I also limit the vaccines my cat receives. She gets only rabies (she has access to the outdoors via a kennel) plus FVRCP, but those 2 cause her to be lethargic for 24 hrs.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 1:39PM
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I nearly lost a cat once when she had a very bad reaction to a vaccine.

Vet said oh well, if we'd known, we'd have given her an anti-histamine first..

In your boots, I'd tell the vet about the problem & ask if an anti-histamine would help.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 7:09PM
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For that reason , my cats don't get vaccines. They've had rabies only because to adopt my dogs I had to give my cats rabies shots. None of them has ever been outside one minute in their lives. I have two friends whose cats developed tumors at the vaccination site. Knock on cats are healthy, never ever even had a cold and only problem is one, who shall remain anonymous, should go on a diet.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 2:29AM
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Thank you all for the feedback, it helps a lot.

You know, in thinking about it, before this guy it had been a long time since we've been through the vaccine thing on a regular basis. What must have thrown me was that the tech who gave him his first rabies vaccine did a run down on symptoms and them not being normal, even though in the past it seems like we'd been told to possibly expect this sort of thing. When doing research online it seemed a little confusing as to what was okay and what wasn't.

He is the kind of cat who won't tolerate attention if he feels a little off (my last two would tolerate it), and he tends to lash out and vocalize if he's unhappy. His reaction and recovery is so quick and predictable, I guessed it probably wasn't out of line. Still, I'll run it by the vet when we see her.

My last girl couldn't be vaccinated due to health reasons, at first this was a relief since the girl before her had succumb to a vaccination site sarcoma, but as time went on- and thanks to some stories on this forum- I realize the downside to not being at least rabies current. Fortunately, our current vet seems very good about only vaccinating as appropriate, but with state and county regulations being so tight (our cat has to be county registered with current rabies or waiver on file), it is so much better if he can just get his appropriate shots and be okay too.

Thanks so much for answering, I do feel much better now.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2013 at 9:54AM
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Yes - they get the same mild fever and minor pain at the injection site as humans.

The fever is normal - it means the cat's immune system is responding to the vaccine.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 9:33AM
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