by Dr. Shelby Neely of Ask the Cat Doctor
When your cat is exposed to other cats in any way, vaccine status is very important. Boarding at a veterinary hospital or boarding facility is no exception. In fact, most boarding facilities will require that your cat be up-to-date on vaccines in order to stay there. This is for your cat’s protection.
Vaccine requirements vary from facility to facility. However, it is in your own best interest to ensure that your kitty is up-to-date, in particular, with the vaccine generally referred to as the FVRCP vaccine.
FVRCP stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia, three viruses that can make unvaccinated cats very ill. Infection with the Rhinotracheitis virus and Calicivirus cause feline upper respiratory diseases. Panleukopenia, caused by a parvo virus, affects the GI tract. Vaccinated cats will either not develop these diseases or will get a very mild form of them while unvaccinated cats can become seriously ill and even die. Direct contact is not required for transmission—some of these viruses can travel through the air via sneezing or can even be transmitted by bowls, bedding, or human hands and live in the environment for very long periods of time.
It is also important that your cat be up-to-date with the Rabies vaccine. Rabies is a deadly disease and, while a boarding facility may not be a terribly likely location where your cat could contract the virus, the fatal nature of the disease makes it not worth taking any chance. In addition, the rabies vaccination is almost always required by state, county, or township laws.
There are additional vaccines that may be appropriate for your cats if they go outdoors, but most boarding facilities will not require them. These include FeLV, FIV, and FIP vaccines (feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, and feline infectious peritonitis). Your cat should not be at risk for contracting these viruses while boarding if you confirm that any boarding facility where your kitty will stay does not allow cats from different households to be in contact with each other. If they do, that is dangerous and not a place where you should be boarding your cat.
If your cat has never been vaccinated before, the vaccines should be given at least two weeks in advance of boarding in order for them to be protective. An unvaccinated cat must have two FVRCP vaccines 21-28 days apart to be protected. The second of these two vaccines must be given at least two weeks prior to boarding.
If your cats have been kept up-to-date on their vaccines for years, current thinking is that vaccines may not be needed as often as we used to believe or perhaps not at all after a certain age and/or a certain number of vaccines. However, the boarding facility will probably still require a certificate from your veterinarian proving that your cat was vaccinated within the last year or other required period of time.
Always discuss vaccination requirements and risks with your veterinarian. There are some special circumstances, such as your cat’s age and health status, that may need to be addressed with the boarding facility prior to arranging for your cat to board. While protecting your cat against diseases such as rabies and upper respiratory viruses is important, elderly and physically compromised cats can possibly be harmed more than helped by vaccinations. Only you and your veterinarian can determine the best plan for your cat.
For more information on cat vaccines, the illnesses they protect against, vaccine schedules, and the risks and benefits of vaccines, please visit
Dr. Shelby Neely has been a feline veterinarian for over 20 years and is the cat doctor/writer behind the highly successful Ask the Cat Doctor blog.