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Ask Dr Jill Elliot: Should I vaccinate my indoor cats?

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noni_orchid_thief2Q: Should I vaccinate my indoor cat?

A: New York City holistic veterinarian Dr Jill Elliot says:

I advise my clients whose cats live entirely INDOORS not to give them annual vaccines – despite the fact that many (not all) veterinarians recommend annual vaccines for all cats.

My recommendation is to not vaccinate your indoor cats after they receive their kitten vaccine and one year boosters a year later.

Cats are very sensitive to the vaccines and the adjuvant that is in the vaccine to stabilize it. Some cats will develop a fibrosarcoma (cancerous tumor) at the vaccine site after a few years of annually receiving the recommended vaccines.

Life-long protection
The FVRCP (for respiratory disease ) is the most commonly given vaccine. However, your cat most likely has life-long protection after receiving its kitten vaccines and one booster a year later.

Vaccine manufacturers state in their instructions “to only give to healthy animals”. If your pet has any chronic condition, you should not give this vaccine. Also there is very little chance that your indoor cat will pick up a respiratory infection from sitting in your house if you have a stable house environment (not bringing stray cats in and out).

When you should vaccinate
However, if you are planning to bring your indoor cat into a vet hospital for a procedure (like dentistry) you should update your cats’ vaccines so your cats don’t catch a respiratory infection while at the hospital. Also the clinic will require a current rabies vaccine before working on your pet.

Rabies vaccine
The Rabies vaccine is mandated by law to be current given every three years in New York State. As a licensed veterinarian I must recommend to my clients they give this vaccine to their pets. However I also tell them they have the right to decline it if they wish since they are the caretaker of their animal.

I believe that cats that live indoors will never be exposed to a rabid animal (opossum, raccoon, skunk, etc.)

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Thank you so very much for this post. I have been struggling with whether to vaccinate my indoor babies or not and I honestly believe it is in their best interest to NOT do it. One is an 18 yr old boy and I think the stress of that might seriously hurt him instead of help. Thank you. I wish there were more holistic vets like you around.


My cat was a year old July 09. She had her rabies this past January when she was spaded. She has had her intiial vaccine when she was a kitten.
I want to protect her but I am not sure I need to take her to the vet any further because she is an indoor cat. PLEASE ADVISE


Going back last year I had my cat vacinated for his yearly vaccine and he had an allergic reation that made him swell in the mouth, vomit and almost go into seizures. Since then I am so troubled to now whether to get the next vaccine which was due a month ago done. My cat is 2 yrs old and a full-time indoor cat, what should I do?

BL Ochman

Michelle – Dr Elliot says: “No If the cat has a vaccine reaction then there are medical reasons why he shouldn’t be re-vaccinated.

I would decline the vaccine for medical reasons.”


This may be a silly question, but here goes. My cats are indoor pets – they never go out. If I get a dog at a later date, obviously he/she will have to have a daily walk. Is the dog likely to pick up any germs that will be transferred to the cats when he gets home, or would the fact that they’re different species negate this risk? Thanks.

BL Ochman

There are no silly questions! Here’s what Dr Elliot says:
“You are quite right. Different species. Different diseases. There are no real viruses that a dog can bring home to a cat. What you have to worry about are external parasites like fleas and ticks. If you protect the dog from getting these things there will be much less of a chance that anything could be passed to your cat.

Always feel free to ask the silly questions. There are always other people out there wondering about the same exact thing.” Best regards, Dr. Jill Elliot http://www.nyholisticvet.com


My male kitten got only his first vaccine when he was 8 weeks. I am debating if I should give him boosters. He is now 18 weeks.
Does it matter to give him boosters? He is an indoor cat. I am aware I should have him fixed when he is 6 months if I don’t want him to urinate to mark territory around house, etc. I had only female cats so far, one died of throat cancer and the other one is about 14 years old . I hate to do it, but I heard some horror stories and he may want to run away, etc.


My kitten got the his first shot of FVRCP but no booster at 12 weeks or 16 weeks. He is now 5 months. Is it too late for boosters/

Diane M. Nelson

I was so pleased to read Dr. Jill Elliot’s recommendations not to give vaccines to totally indoor cats after initial vaccines as kittens and boosters after one year. Before I put a halt to the vaccines for my older cats I encountered so many problems after they were administered. Hopefully, in time I will be able to locate a hollistic Vet not too far from my home. Thank you again for this valuable information. Will share this site with my friends.

Diane M. Nelson

So pleased to read that a Vet is recommending no vaccines and one year boosters for indoor cats. This is a practice I have been against for many years. Glad to have found this site.

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot has been taking care of my pets for many years and I attribute the long life – 13 years – of my late Yellow Lab, Sam, to her wonderful treatment. He had been diagnosed with early stages of kidney failure when I met Dr Elliot – something that traditional veterinary medicine can’t fix.

She told me homeopathy could help, and it sure did. When Sammy died, his kidneys tested normal. When I got Benny, we started holistic treatment from the start. Ditto for my cat, Noni. So happy you found us.

Learn more about Dr Elliot at her website

Sarah C.

We are getting ready to have a baby anytime. Do I need to take my 10-yr old cat to have any shots or vaccinations in preparation for this? She has always been an indoor cat, and she has not had any shots since she was a kitten. I just want to make sure she doesn’t pose a threat to the baby. Thanks.

BL Ochman

i’ll ask Dr Elliot to respond to you.

D Fowler

I have a 8yr old and 4 yr old female indoor-only cats from the Humane Society so have had all shots. I live in S. Florida where it is mandatory for ANNUAL rabies shots. I refused all other shots. Titers are prohibitively expensive and so is the fine for not vaccinating for Rabies. Any suggestions? I firmly believe annual vaccines for indoor cats are a racket for the vets and county to get revenue.


I have a 7 year old Bengal who had all his shots for 5 years. Because of his reaction to one of them, being listless for a couple of weeks, I have stopped all shots. The question is, he does not go out except on a leash, doesn’t want to, but, we do go for walks in our yard. Does he need shots?


My kitten just got his first set of shots. The vet I went to said he should go back in three weeks for another booster shot, but from what I just read at the top of this page it says one year for the booster so nore I’m confused! Do I bring him back in three weeks or one year? And if he it’s strictly an indoor cat does he still need to go back in one year? I’ve read so many horror stories about vaccinations after getting his I’m wondering if I should if even got those? He was the sweetest cuddly cat, but he hasn’t come near me & even looks away when I pet him (just got his shots today btw) hes acting as if he may be nass st me! please help..

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot says:
“Whether to get the second round depends on his age. Usually if he is under 16 weeks then get a second shot. I usually do the rabies vaccine separately and much later after 16 weeks old. I personally recommend all cats be seen by their vet once a year. However for indoor cats I do not recommend repeated vaccinations. It always depends on their life style. Feel free to contact me personality for a more specific answer if you wish. 212-741-4000″


I believe every indoor cat should get the rabies vaccine, as required by law. The Purevax Rabies vaccine is a vaccince without the addictive that causes cancer. It is given once a year.

My cats are strictly indoors, but we had a bat get into our house recently and my kitty went nuts, catching it twice! You never know what kind of wild animal can get into your house. I am thankful that I made the common sense choice to get my kitties vaccinated.

BL Ochman

nobody said you should never get your cats vaccinated. they all need the vaccines during the first 2 years of their lives. however, there is ample evidence that the protection from the vaccines can last a lifetime. And no matter what you decide, be aware that the American College of Veterinary Medicine recommends against vaccinating more than once every three years for ANY vaccine, after babyhood.

i get my dog, Benny, his rabies vaccine, as required by law, every three years. but he will not get another “routine” vaccine until his blood titres show he needs them. so far, blood titres inidicate that he has protection. my cat also has had his rabies vaccine, but no others, since he was a kitten.

it is, of course, your choice to vaccinate your animals in a manner that gives you peace of mind.
thank you for commenting on the post

BL Ochman

Hi – Dr Elliot has written about shots and indoor cats several times on Pawfun Blog.

Please see:
Is it against the law not to vaccinate your indoor cat?
Are annual vaccines harmful to your dog and cat?
– Ask Dr Elliot: To vaccinate or not?
UC Davis VMTH Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines (Revised 11/09)

As for the tears and sneezing, it sounds like you need to take your kitten to your vet asap!


There are plenty of vaccinations on the market now that are non-adjuvanted and do not cause vaccine associated fibrosarcomas. For those of you who opt to not vaccinate your indoor only cats, please remember that all it takes is one escape into the outdoors, one tussle with a sick animal to fall to FeLV. As a vet med professional, nothing hurts more than seeing a pet whose parents had the best intentions come in with a preventable disease!

Jill Elliot, DVM

Thank you for your comment. What you say is true. People who live in a house or place where a cat might escape should consider getting the FeLV vaccine when their cat is a kitten.

This has been shown to be 95% effective for the rest of their life.

If you want to insure 100% protection you can vaccinate that cat yearly. However there is very little chance of this happening for NYC typical apt. dwelling cats. Of course people may move eventually from an apt. to a house. At that point if they are concerned about the cat escaping they can get the FeLV (two-part vaccine) at that time.

The Pure Vac Rabies vaccine which is labeled to be given on a yearly basis was tested three times and found to give protection for three years. However there was a problem with the testing method and they FDA refused to allow the company to label it for a three year vaccine. If you are going to vaccinate your cat for Rabies the Pure Vac Rabies vaccine is the preferred vaccine. Please ask your vet if they have this before going into their office to get the vaccine.

I am not against all vaccines under all circumstances. I truly advise my clients to make their choices about whether to vaccinate or not dependent on the pet’s lifestyle. I always aim to safe guard to health of all my four-legged patients. Best Dr. Jill

Jill Elliot, DVM

With respect to questions about whether to vaccinate a cat (or dog) that has previously had an allergic reaction to a vaccine…I strongly oppose this.

The reaction is life threatening to the animal. Although many veterinarians will give a steroid injection as well as benadryl injection 20 minutes before giving the vaccine, there is no guarantee the pet will not have a delayed reaction later.

Vaccine manufacturers put a pamphlet in with the vaccines when they are transported. It states that “only healthy animals should be vaccinated.” Animals with previous vaccine reactions, and ANIMALS WITH CHRONIC DISEASES (in my opinion) should not be vaccinated.

You can always ask your vet to send out a blood sample and measure the Rabies TITER (antibody level) rather than give the vaccine if you need to if know your cat or dog has adequate protection.

Linda Quail

my parents have a wonderful, happy, active kitten…received his set of vaccines….now lethargic, does not want to play, etc. ..is this from the the 3 vaccines and the booster…my Dad is very upset and taking the kitten back to vet for another check up…originally told that it would pass….but he is still lethargic after several days


My precious 14+ year old cat was diagnosed with vestibular disease about a month ago. He normally has annual boosters. Would these be advisable now?

BL Ochman

Hi – Dr Elliot is on vacation. I will not be able to get her response until after Jan 1st. Sorry!

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot is on vacation, but I do know that she recommends against vaccinating an animal who is sick. And there is absolutely no excuse for annual boosters. Vaccines should not be given more than once every three years.

We do blood titres on our pets to see if they still have immunity or if they need a booster. I have never once had to re-vaccinate (except rabies, which is legally required in NY) after the first two years.

connie rush

We have a kitten just over a year old and an older cat. Last year I purchased their vaccines by mail and gave them at home. I want to give the kitten her one year booster but want to make sure I purchase the correct vaccine. Is the FVRCP the same as the distemper combo vaccine. If not, is there somewhere I can purchase the FVRCP vaccine. Also, they are both indoor cats so do I need to worry about giving them the feline leukemia vaccine yearly or does it also stay in the system? Thanks,

BL Ochman

I’m sure the company that sells the vaccines can answer these questions for you if you call them.


Should I vaccinate (for rabies) my 14 year old indoor cat (he does sneak outside-but rarely), in order for him to get licensed in my town? I’m hearing that vaccinations could be dangerous at his age and he really doesn’t need them.

BL Ochman

please read through the many comments on this post from Dr Elliot and then make your decision. I do not vaccinate my indoor cat, but he did get shots for the first 2 years on Dr Elliot’s advice.

azan laghari

Excuse me ms. should i wash my kitten shes 8 weeks old in winter shes taken a bath with warm water then in sunlight is that ok?

BL Ochman

unless your kitten has gotten into something really smelly or sticky, she’s fine to wash herself. Cats spend about half their lives grooming themselves. I’ve had cats for the past 30 years or so, and I can’t say I ever had to give any of them a bath. But, if she’s one of those rare cats who LIKES baths, then, why not.

I had a cat, Splash, who liked to put her head under the water coming out of the tap. :>)

lara brooks

i have a question in regards to my cats. they are both indoor cats. one had his shots when he was a kitten followed by shots a year later. my other i adopted from the shelter. estimated 6 month old she has had her shots. should i vaccinate her for felv because of being abanoded and at the shelter? also with both cats haveing gotten their shots and being indoor cats do i need to revaccinate fora move from iowa to idaho or will they be okay? thanks a bunch

Jill Elliot

Dear Lara:
I usually do not recommend revaccinating indoor cats after they have gotten all their initial kitten vaccine. If you are moving from Iowa to Idaho and are flying with them the airlines may require a current Rabies vaccination. I do not suggest getting the FELV vaccine if they will be indoors only.

If you plan to let them outdoors then you can give this vaccine and the Rabies vaccine (pure vac for cats) only.

I recently was quoted in the Readers Digest advising against vaccines. Two people wrote in and we upset with me because they had the unusual instance of having a rabid raccoon in one case and a bat with rabies in the second case come into their home and attach their cat. These incidents are rare.

If you have any concerns your animals would even be in a situation where they might be exposed even accidentaly to Rabies then revaccinate for Rabies. Thanks for your inquiry. BTW Most states require Rabies vaccines therefore you have to check with your state to see what the requirements are and then make your own choice for what to do. Best regards.


My wife is pregnant and expecting our first child next month. We have two 5 year old orange tabbies who are exclusively indoor cats. They had their kitten vaccines and one year booster shots but have not been vaccinated since.

Do they need to be re-vaccinated with the baby on the way? Any reason they need to be seen sooner than their upcoming one year check up in December?

jill broder

I have two cats, one going on two years old They are both vaccinated, up to date, but i am wondering if he needs to be revaccinated. He is due for shots in July. I do take them for walks in the back yard daily ( we have a large yard and they see dogs being walked down the street and won’t go in the front yard).Dhey need heartworm if they go out in the back also? Thank you. I love them to death and want the best in everything for them.

Jill Elliot

In all previous answers I have advised against re-vaccinating indoor cats. However your cats do go out even if they are on a leash. There is always a chance they could get exposed to a rabid animal. Therefore you might want to vaccinate them with the PURE VAC for cats only Rabies Vaccine which does not have any negative effects.

They don’t need the FVRCP (for respiratory diseases). And they need the FeLV (feline leukemia vaccine). Rabies is a life threatening disease to animals and people. I want you to know they are fully protected. There is more and more information coming out about giving cats heartworm meds.

Again if they are totally indoors and live in NYC probably they don’t need it, but if going outside they could be exposed to mosquitoes and therefore you might want to give it to them at least the months you are taking they outside. And one month after they no longer go outside. There is no treatment for feline heartworm disease and the feline heartworm test is not accurate.

Jill Elliot

Dear Jonathan:
If your cats have not been to a vet in the last year I would recommend they be seen for an annual exam to make sure they are healthy. Definitely bring in a fecal sample from each cat to screen for parasites and giardia. These can be passsed to people and are more dangerous to small children. You want to be sure they are negative.

If they have not been tested for FELV and FIV you should have these done as well. If all is well you might want to give them one more round of vaccines this time only. Be sure to ask for the PURE VACC Rabies vaccine for cats only. This is just a precaution and usually not necessary.

One other important issue for pregnant women with cats is Toxoplasmosis. This is a disease that can be transmitted to pregnant women and cause problems with the fetus. It is recommended that women do not clean to cat litter box while pregnant. However if your cats have been indoor cats for over a few months, the research shows that they no longer would be able to pass this on to your wife (even if they did test positive for it).

You might ask your wife to be tested for toxoplasmosis by her physician. Most people get exposed to toxoplasmosis while gardening or eating meat tainted with this parasite.
Best of luck to you and your new arrival. Dr. Elliot


Thank you so much! I am against annual vaccinations and have actually gotten into a rough argument with a vet who kept telling me I should vaccinate my cat yearly. I have heard of kidney failures in cats and a friend of mine which has an outdoor cat has only vaccinated her when she was 2 years old and she’s perfectly healthy.
Thanks so much. The vaccines are out of the list now :) Thank you!


Hi there,

I have 2 cats, 1 female 8.5 yr old tabby. And 1 larger grey boy cat, 8 yr old. They do go outside in the back yard, maybe a jaunt to the park once in a while. They don’t go outside unsupervised, however i guess anything is possible if they get curious enough and jump the fence. Fingers and toes crossed that this does not happen, been here since end of December and no jumps to date. My questions is, what (if any) vaccines should i get for either of them. They were never vaccines for anything, my own choice. I recently adopted a Chihuahua girl, almost 4 yrs old. Vaccines up to date since we got her at the humane society. She will be going for walks on a leash and more then likely at an off leash park once in a while with other dogs. We just got her less then a week ago and will be taking her to the vet in 4 days just for the initial unbiased check-up free from the humane society. We are thinking to take the cats in to be vaccines. Please let me know which ones we should, should not get. Both are very healthy aside from the uncertainty of wanting to share the house with the new pup just yet. Thanks so much!

BL Ochman

Hi – if you read through the comments, you’ll see that Dr Elliot has already answered these questions. Let me know if you still have questions after you’ve seen her answers.
Enjoy your little creatures :>)

Ben Edmondson

I have a neutered male 5 year old short hair tabby and i have had him since he was 1. He use to be outside and indoor when he was little and didnt start getting shots until i took him in at 1 1/2 he got his booster and every shot required & since then he has been getting his 3 year rabbi shot and the yearly FVRCP since i have had him, have not missed one, but i was reading your info. on here about Not having to get them the yearly shots if he is a Total indoor cat which he is the only way he goes outside is if i carry him in my arms and hold him for bout 30 min. to get some fresh air and maybe have windows open time to time so he can get fresh air that way alsoi, So question he is a total inside cat and if i stop getting him the yearly FVRCP SHOTS WILL IT HURT OR EFFECT HIM IN ANY WAY JUST TO STOP OR SHOULD I JUST KEEP DOING IT SINCE HE IS USE TO GETTING THEM ?? PLEASE LET ME KNOW CAUSE HIS SHOT IS COMING UP AT END OF THIS MONTH, THANK YOU

Jill Elliot

Hi Ben: Thanks for writing. If you have been reading these articles on this site you will see that I recommend NOT vaccinating indoor cats yearly. Once they have the kitten vaccine series….and perhaps once again a year later, I usually recommend stopping all vaccines for INDOOR cats.

I received some negative response over this statement when I was quoted in the May 2012 Readers Digest. One person wrote in to say that a rabid raccoon came into their house and attacked their cat. Two other people said that a bat flew into their house. They were worried it might have rabies and might have attacked the cat or the cat attach the bat. I understand their concern. However these are very rare occurrences. Seems odd to me that they were not personally worried about getting rabies from these potentially affected animals/bats and only worried about their cat.

The most important thing about your cat’s office visit with your veterinarian is the exam. The veterinarian has an opportunity to listen to the cat’s heart, feel their internal organs, look for any lumps and bumps, check for a thyroid nodule, etc. If the cat is over 7 years old I usually recommend a full blood work panel with a urine analysis to check the cat’s intenal health. Then repeat this every other year till the cat is 13 or 14. At that point do it yearly. Prevention is the best way to keep cats and dogs healthy longer. Thanks again for bringing up this important issue.
Dr. Jill
PS Most animals will probably have immunity to any vaccine they have received for MANY MANY years after the actual date the vaccine was given.


Hello Dr. Elliot. I have a quick question. I have a strictly indoor cat. She is almost 2 years old. She has only had her initial vaccines when I adopted her. Anyway we were playing the other day and I got a decent scratch from her by accident. I am wondering if I should be concerned about rabies, or any other concerns? She is strictly indoors. And to the best of my knowledge has not come into contact with any other animals. Should I be concerned about rabies? Thank you Dr. Eliot.

Jill Elliot

Hi Josh:
You have absolutely nothing to worry about. Your cat could only have Rabies if she was exposed to another animal that had rabies and bite her or something like that. You have more of a chance of getting Rabies since you go outside. There is a disease called Cat Scratch Fever that cats can pass to people but this is not fatal and usually causes malaise and sometimes a fever in people.
Best regards, Dr. Jill Elliot


I have a 4 month old kitten that I syringe fed from the day it was born. He was very small and premature at birth (2 ounces) and was cold, nearly dead and abandoned on a friend’s carport by the mother who was a ferel cat. The vet gave him very little chance of survivial and said if he did, he would have a compromised immune system due to lack of the mothers colostrum. I gave him premium kitten formula mixed with pedialyte, honey and AD food. He has always been undersized and a little behind developmentally. It was very difficult to wean him or get him to finally learn to drink water. He is a wonderful, sweet little guy and we love him like our baby. I am very concerned about immunizations and have not gotten him any yet. He is a 100% indoor cat because we have outside dogs who don’t like cats. We don’t want him to get sick, he is our baby. What should we do?

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot is on vacation for a few weeks. Sorry, can’t get you an answer right now. Good luck with the kitty!


I have an 8 yr old Bengal Hybrid. He had his initial and I believe his annual vaccinations up to age 3 or 4. I stopped because after he was neutered he was never the same. Every time I take him out of the house he urinates all over himself in the carrier. He is a strictly indoor cat, except sometimes (very rare) he will sit on the back patio. Now I am wondering if I should get his vacs as I have a very active dog who goes everywhere with me and I do ride horses. Then my last questions, heart worms. What about the millions of mosquitoes we all get in our homes? Can I get him heart worm medication without the trip to my vet? and if so, could you recommend a brand?

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot is on vacation.


I have a cat that I rescued when she was only a couple weeks old (im guessing 3, maybe 4) and she is now 2 years old. She was near death and I nursed her back to health, with the intention of finding her a home once she was well enough, because we really couldnt afford another animal. We ended up keeping her, since I grew very attatched but I was never able to affird to take her in for shots, even as a kitten. SHe has been a strictly indoors cat since I found her but HAS gotten out 2 or 3 times over the past 2 years. I had planned on taking her in for her shots this month, since I can now afford them but after reading these answers, Im wondering if I should? All of your answers suggest not vaccinating indoor cats after they have had their kitten vaccinations… but what if they never had those either? What should I do?


My mistake… she is now 3 years old!

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot will be back from vacation in another week.


Dear Dr. Elliot, I have a 17 year old cat with Asthma. She’s on the aerokat inhaler and 2.5mg of terbutaline twice a day. Our vet wants me to bring her in for a 3 yr Rinotr/Calci vaccine. She has episodes of rapid breathing but they quickly resolve after a few minutes of rest. Do you think this vaccine would provide more protection for her respiratory system or stress it even more? She is doing quite well, aside from the periodic quick breathing spells. I am in such a dilemma about this. Also, what is your opinion on getting routine “blood pressure” on our fury friends?

Jill Elliot, DVM

Dear Amanda:
Thank you for contacting me. I strongly advise AGAINST ANY VACCINES for your cat. The vaccine manufactured puts a slip in with the vaccines that states “only vaccine HEALTHY animals”. Your cat is not healthy. Therefore should not have ANY vaccines. All vaccines can cause an inflammatory reaction. Your cat already has an inflammatory condition going on in her lungs. Vaccines can make it worse. If she is an indoor cat she doesn’t need any further vaccines. Please see the posts I have put up prior to this response. Routine blood pressure reading are fine and especially good to do on older cats. Cats with kidney disease can also have high blood pressure and should be periodically checked for this.


Ok so here’s my story. I had my cat for 10 years. I took her from the street, and besides some deparasiting, we never had her vaccinated. I heard creepy stories about cats dying after being vaccinated and was too scared to do it.

She never had any kind of problems and now she’s 10 years old. I’ve started gathering info of how to take better care of her now that she’s old, but I keep reading on websites that vaccination is extremely important and now I’m dead scared. Can I still get her vaccinated after so many years? I have to mention that she never goes outside of the house, but I read that we can bring viruses on our clothes and she can still get sick…

I’m desperate since I found out these things. If you could help me with some advice I would be really grateful!


I forgot to mention that in my country it’s hard next to impossible to find a vet that will really care about your cat, so I never took her to any tests to see if she’s completely ok. I don’t know what to do know. I’m scared she might have some disease but she’s hiding it. Or maybe she’s fine, and if I take her to one of those horror vets, they’ll make up some disease just to take our money and hurt her.

I’m really lost and scared. As I said, she always seemed to be fine for these past 10 years but lately she keeps on scratching one side of her neck, which really scared me. She also seems to have nightmares and meow while sleeping ( she’s been doing this since she was a kitten but I feel like it’s a bit more intense lately .

Jill Elliot

Hi Christina:
I understand your concern about taking your cat to the vet. However I recommend to ALL my clients and cat owners that cats should been seen once a year by a vet. If they offer vaccines, you can decline the vaccines. However once my cat clients get to be about 7 or 8, I recommend doing blood work and taking a urine sample. This is so see if we can head off any pending problems.

Your cat is now middle aged and according to you has not seen a vet in years. I highly recommend that you take her to a vet. I would run blood work (Superchem/CBC/T4 and a freetT4 (it’s not free, it’s just the name of the test) and submit a urine sample for urine analysis.

There are many reasons why cats will start to howl more as they age. Your vet may find a physical reason if this if blood work is done. Often cats that become hyperthyroid will start to howl more. (My last three cats did.). Try to ask your friends and neighbors with pets what vets they use and who they like. If you are in NYC I would be happy to see you at one of my offices (either W. 18th St. or E 84th St., NYC.) Good luck. Feel free to write again once you have more information on your cat.
Best Dr. Jill Elliot
PS Try to have the attitude that you will find a great vet who will listen to your concerns and be open to working with you and your cat rather than thinking all vets are trying to just make money. Most veterinarians I know went into the profession to help animals.

Jill Elliot

Dear Christina:
I realized I did not address the scratching issue you wrote about. Don’t know what country you live in but the first thing I would check for (which you might have already done) is for any parasites (mites/fleas/any other bugs or bug bites). If none of this is present then could be she developed an allergy. This is something else the vet can assess during your visit. The vet might have to do a skin scrape to see if any mites are present or bacterial infection. This condition can only be diagnosed in an office visit. Also I would look at the food you are feeding. Did you change the food recently or add something to the food that might be causing an allergic reaction?
Let me know how it all turns out and what country your are residing in. Thanks.
Dr. Jill Elliot


Hi. I have 2 boys that are about 17 months old. I rescued them. When they were around 8 weeks, i got thier first set of shot, but never went back. Then about 5 months, I had them fixed so they wouldnt spray, and of course they got thier rabies shot. Its a little past time for thier rabies shot. Idk if it was the pain meds the vet gave me for them, or the rabies shot, but i think they had an allergic reaction to something. It made thier stool orange in the middle, and sometimes it was bloody. The vet said they were fine, and they didnt think it was an allergic reaction, but about a week later, their stool was normal again. Do i need to get thier shots caught up? Do they need thier rabies shot? Is it safe to “catch” up on thier shots, since they have only ever gotten the 1st set, no more than that? Also we just rescued 2 more kittens. No clue how old they are. Any recommendations on thier shots? Do they need them? Thanks!

Jill Elliot

Thank you for asking these questions. If you read the prior posts you will see that I do not recommend a lot of vaccinations for indoor cats. However I do recommend the initial vaccines for kittens starting at 10 or 11 weeks old (first FVRCP) and three weeks later the second last (FVRCP) booster. The Rabies vaccine can be given after 4 months of age (or when they are spayed/neutered). After that I do not recommend vaccinating INDOOR cats.

Ourdoor cats should be vaccinated for Rabies and FeLv (feline leukemia).

I do recommend that all cats been seen by a veterinarian yearly. Once they are middle age (8-10 years old) twice a year. At 8 years old I recommend doing blood work yearly or every other year with a urine analysis. This is to catch any illness that might be starting before it become serious.

If someone brings me a cat that is over 1 year old and has never been vaccinated, I would give one Rabies vaccine and one FVRCP. I would not give a booster (FVRCP) if the cat is one year old or older and getting the vaccine for the first time.

I hope this answers your question.

Regarding your new rescued kittens, be sure to test them for Felv/FIV BEFORE mixing them with your current cats. These viruses can be passed to kittens by their parents and are contagious. Good luck with your furry family.


I forgot to mention, they are all strickly inside cats. Never gotten out, to date.


I had two 10 year old female house cats. Recently I had to put one down because she had aggressive cancer. Its been a little over a month, and the other cat is very lonely so I am getting a kitten on Thursday. The female kitten is 8 weeks old, never has been outside, and the mother goes in and outside as she pleases, but is mostly an indoors cat. Do I need to get my old cat updated on Rabies and Distemper when I have the kitten vaccinated?

Jill Elliot

Dear Emily. Sorry about the recent loss of your cat. In terms of getting a new kitten: most importantly you should take it to your vet to have it tested for FELV/FIV. This is because the mother cat does go in and out and might have been exposed. Keep the kitten separated from your older cat until you know she is negative. Sometimes the FELV/FIV test is not as accurate on such a young cat. You should retest the kitten after it is 4 months old as well.

The new kitten won’t give Rabies to your current cat. But it could give a respiratory disease.

As you know i am not for vaccinating indoor cats. However you might consider getting your older cat vaccinated for FVRCP BEFORE bringing the new kitten into the house or certainly before you expose your older cat to the kitten. Often kittens come into a new home and just the stress of the move and new enviroment can cause them to break with a respiratory disease. They seem to get better quickly but the older cat may because sick and have a harder time getting better.

I would keep them separate for at least a month, till you see the kitten is really healthy. Then slowly introduce them to one another. Also an older cat may not have that much tolerance for a kitten who wants to play all the time, Be aware of your older cat’s needs regarding how much time to have the kitten playing with her. Good luck with your new kitten.
Best Dr. Jill Elliot

Jill Elliot

One more thought. Please bring a fecal sample with you to your vet when you have the kitten checked out to be sure it is free of any parasites or giardia that could get passed to your older cat. I assume they will share the same litter box,
Best Jill Elliot DVM


Hi, I have a 9 year old indoor cat. She had a rabies shot 3 years ago and her last leukemia,etc in 2008. After reading many things i wasn’t intending to have her vaccinated either. But a relatives cats/kittens have come down with Parvo Virus and am worried of our cat contacting it through shoes etc. Should she gets a booster for this? Thank you for your help.


Hi again, The vaccine that she received in 2008 was some kind of combination that included distemper and the leukemia and other things. Thank you,


Hi, Re-reading my message i realized that i did a poor job of explaining my question. My cat is 9 years old and has had all of her vaccinations up through 2008. She is strictly an indoor cat. I had decided that she would be better off with the risk of vaccines, not getting any more. But my niece has outdoor cats/kittens that have become infected with the Parvo Virus, even losing a few of them. I am scared that through visits this could be transmitted to my cat and was wondering if she would be immuned from her past vaccinations or if i should take her in to get a booster? I worry about this cancer that can occur at the vaccination site too. Thank you for your advice.


Hello, I have 3 kittens and I have all the shots required for my oldest but the other 2 I rescued and they had no shots. I am waiting to get paid to take them in.. My question is which one should I spay or neuder the boy or the girl? They are very active so I would like to do the one that would heal or be less painfull.. Thank you


Adding on I do plan to spay all 3 but I am doing one at a time since they play alot and that way I can take care of one each.

Also my tabby woke up with booger eye should I isolate her from the others untill I see my vet?

BL Ochman

This is a question you really should ask your own vet. Dr Elliot’s post is about whether or not to vaccinate an indoor cat. She cannot give advice about all aspects of your pets’ health without seeing them.


Can you give confirmation of the best time to vaccinate a kitten, please? I read an article that said at 13 weeks then 16 weeks for the fvrcp and a booster at a year but just read an answer here that said at 10-11 weeks then 3 weeks later for the last one. Rabies at 16 weeks and then at a year? Thanks!

Jill Elliot

Thank you for writing. If the kitten is going to be in your house and not exposed to anything there is no rush to vaccinate early.

Since the last FVRCP should be given after 16 weeks and the two should be three weeks apart, giving the first FVRCP at 13 weeks and second one (last one) at 16 weeks is just fine. No reason to give one earlier. The Rabies vaccine can be given a few weeks later.

Then spay or neuter the kitten at 6 months. Next year you would repeat the Rabies vaccine and FVRCP. After that if that cat is an indoor cat I suggest not giving any further vaccines unless there is a specific reason (like needing a current Rabies vaccine to fly with the cat on vacation,etc.

What is important is that you take the cat in yearly for an exam. Best, Dr. Jill Elliot


i have a cat who is about 4 years old, should i vaccinate him this year..i have been vaccinating him yearly, now i’m worried.. he is an indoor cat. You mentioned about kitten but what about adult cats? Thank you so much,,mwahhh

BL Ochman

Hi – if you read through the comments on this post, you’ll see that your question has already been answered. Wishing you and the kitty good health. :)
co-founder, Pawfun

Paul and Kat

We had to give up our Bengal to my daughter as he loved being out and in.

We lost our American Shorthair to sickness. Very sad experience.

Our vet is pushing us to do the following. 9 weeks:

· Kitten Wellness Exam

· 1st Feline Distemper (CVR) Vaccination

· 1st Feline Leukemia Vaccination

· Kitten dewormer

12 weeks:

· 2nd Feline Distemper (CVR) Vaccination

· 2nd Feline Leukemia Vaccination

· Rabies Vaccination
Our cat is a Ragamuffin. About one year old. The only pet we have. He will always be indoors short of a natural disaster.. No association with other critters. I would like to follow your direction for shots. Simply tell me what you would do if our cat was yours.


Paul and Kat

Jill Elliot

Hi Paul and Kat:
If you have read this column you know my recommendations on vaccines for kittens and cats. If this is an indoor cat/kitten you don’t have to give any vaccines till it’s 13 weeks. Then give one FVRCP at 13 weeks and the booster at 16 weeks. You can give one Rabies vaccine 4 weeks later.

If it is indoors it does not need the Fel Leukemia vaccine. You can give one separately from all other vaccines if you want to. The research shows this will protect you cat 95% for the rest of it’s life. That’s it. After that if indoors I recommend not re vaccinating. Just go once a year for your annual exam.

If your vet doesn’t agree with this seek another vet.
Best of luck to you.
Dr. Jill


I have two long haired kittys. One is a persian and one a himalyan. I try very hard to keep them clean and combed but eventually their hair gets matted and i have to take them to the vet to be groomed. My concern is that they have to be sedated because they get too upset to handle safely during the grooming. I dont agree with sedating them but i have tried to groom them myself and i see that there is not much of a choice in the matter, so i keep up with it myself and only take them to the vet groomer once a year. I am wondering if you have any suggestions on other grooming options? Also i have refused to give them any more vaccines (except rabies because it is required by law in NY) due to both kittys having reactions to the distemper vaccine. Soon they will need to be groomed again and they are over due for vaccinations and the vet is pushing me to re-vaccinate. Could you please tell me how to approach this so i can better understand which vaccines i am REQUIRED to get them. (id rather give none but that is not an option because they will not groom without Rabies Vac i believe) Sorry for such a long question. Thank you.

Jill Elliot, DVM

You can request that your vet give them a blood test to measure their antibody level to Rabies and the feline diseases (in the vaccine). If their titers are adequate it means they have adequate protection again st those diseases and therefore do not need to be vaccinated. See if your vet will oblige. Please let me know how this works out for you.


Hi, I have 2 cats, one is almost 13 and has been receiving all vaccines yearly (other than 3 year rabies) and the other is 4 and has received her yearly vaccines as well. However, I’ve recently become VERY stressed out about my 4 year old. Thus far, she has been exposed to vaccinations on three occasions, and is now do for her boosters and rabies shots again. Every time she has had injections, she had a severe allergic reaction to them, which upon researching, I believe it was anophlactic shock…trouble breathing, panic, excessive vomiting lasting for hours. My vet has tried antihistimine shots, etc. nothing works, she continually has these severe reactions. I have decided I do not want to vaccinate her any longer, nor my older kitty either. However, my older cat is patio trained..she sits outside with us but only on the patio. I am not concerned about her coming into direct contact with another cat, as I am much too cautious to not see one coming, however, I have on rare occasion, observed a stray cat or two walking on my back patio/deck, and this is concerning me about the possibility of her contracting some disease without direct contact. Is this possible, and if so likely? Also, then what about my 4 year old? My old cat has always been a depressed cat and I took her knowing she had some mental issues. She loves going outside and I would hate to take this away from her but I am so stressed out about the possibility of one of my girls contracting some disease… PLEASE HELP. My vet never seems to want to help me with this and encourages yearly boosters.. needless to say I am looking into another vet..I live in Vermilion, Ohio, looking for AAHA approved..


Oh, both cats are indoor, other than the older one, as mentioned, sits on patio with us occasionally. My 4 year old is strictly indoor only.

BL Ochman

Hi Katie: Dr Elliot says “Please read my post and all my responses to questions on vaccines and then make up your own mind as to what to do. Personally I would never vaccinate a cat or dog if they had a previous vaccine reaction. You can do blood tests called titers that can measure the antibody level in their blood. If adequate they do not need vaccines. Good luck.”

Bella Rose

I have a Tonkinese kitty that was abandoned about 3 years ago that I had taken as an indoor kitty. We live in Michigan and although he was neutered when I found him, I’m really not quite sure what shots he had in order to be neutered, or if he needs any at all. He has allergies and asthma. And unless I physically put him on the porch he doesn’t go out, but he will stay on the porch and bathe in the sun till I come back inside. Even though this is a different state, I am quite torn on the dos or donts of this. And doctors that I have asked never give me an answer. More so of ” bring him in, pay a fee and we will check it out”

Bella Rose

Also, do you know of any remedies for a kitty that has allergies/asthma? The vet prescribed tavist but he gets so sedated on it that we have to “keep an eye on the cat” as he falls asleep in the middle of the hall ways, doorways ect.


I’m going to the USA for 3month from Canada and I will be taking my indoor cat that’s 12years old. His only had his first shots right up to he turned 2years old then nothing after that. What should I be asking for when I go to the vets to make sure he can cross the border?

BL Ochman

Hi Tracey – here’s Dr Elliot’s post on vaccinations for an 11 year-old cat. http://www.pawfun.com/2009/07/ask-dr-elliot-should-i-vaccinate-my-11-year-old-cat/


Hi my kitten has had his 1shot and 2nd booster shot is a 3rd and final shot really neccessary for a indoor cat? Hes almost 5months old and due for his 3rd booster shot.

BL Ochman

In the post, which is about indoor cats, Dr Elliot says “My recommendation is to not vaccinate your indoor cats after they receive their kitten vaccine and one year boosters a year later.”


Hi Dr. Elliot, I’m hoping that you will be able to advise me on whether or not I should give our 8 year old cat a booster vaccine. My son got her when she was about 6 months old from a friend of his fathers, the kitten did not get along well with the other cats at his father’s home, so that is how my son ended up with her. We did not know what her vaccine history was except that the owner told my son that she was up to date with her shots. I took in the cat “Alicia” about 5 years ago (because my son’s girlfriend was allergic), she has never been
vaccinated for any thing since she was a kitten, Now that it is sunny and warm outside I have let her out and she stays very close to home. However we decided to bring her to a Vet and she was examined and was given a vaccine for rhino, panleukopenia & calicivirus and rabies. The Vet said to bring her back in one month around August 3rd for a booster shot, but that the rabies is good for one year. My question is does she really need a “booster” shot for the above? The Vet also said that she is in good health, and just needs to have her teeth scaled in 6 months to a year. The rabies vaccine is Defensor 3 is this an okay vaccine? thank you so much for you advice! :)


Hi again! I forgot to mention that Alicia is a mostly an indoor cat, but she loves to go outside and sit in the shrubs outside our home on sunny days, and only when I am out there. There are other domestic cats in the neighborhood and some wild life such a raccoons and one year we had quite a few skunks! Thought it was important that you know, oh ya and she does not like other cats! meaning she steers clear of them. :)

Jennifer Harker

I’m not sure how old some of these posts are since I don’t see a date but I would like to mention something to those who have cats with Asthma. My boy Toby has asthma and my vet had him a lifelong perscription of steroids. After reading about what harmful effects could result from steroids, I sought another approach. What I found was to try a grain free food (I use Taste of the Wild) and I also use Dr. Elseys resperatory relief cat litter. The combination of food and litter changes along with eliminating household carpet & air fresheners has almost eliminated my cats asthma attacks all together! I hope this helps people seek an alternative to lifelong medications.


I have a cat that we got at PetSmart here in Moore, Oklahoma. She looked to be 8mo-1 year old. She has a chip embedded in her I suppose for medical records. PetSmart said that they gave her all of the necessary shots before we got her. I have not given her any more. We use to let her roam until one day, she was found real sick. We rushed her to the Vet and $500 later, they had no idea why she was sick.

That was it. Kitty does go out, but I bought her a 10 foot leash and a stake. She gets to roam in her little 20 foot area which does contain a bird bath low to the ground that collects rain water. Birds hardly touch it as I think it’s too close to the house.

I said all that to ask this question: other than the leash, Kitty is an indoor cat. What kind of vaccination program do you suggest for her?



Jill Elliot, DVM

For any outdoor cat I always recomment a Rabies vaccination. Something could bite her when you are not around. You won’t know what bit her and you will have no way of knowing whether the animal had rabies. There is a lot of rabies in Oklahoma. I did my last year of school in Stillwater. We saw rabies. Also I don’t know that I would put a long cord on a cat. She could strangle herself. They sell large enclosures at places like Petco. Perhaps that would work better for your purposes. Good luck with her.


Information is very helpful. Have been getting the kittys rabies vaccinations every 3 yrs. as Petco won’t groom them without it.
I will be making sure they get their
FVRCP booster once a year for visits at the vet clinic. Thanks.


Hello Dr. Elliott,

I am in a dilemma. I wanted so much to bring my cat in the Philippines to live with me here in Sweden but the law requires that he be vaccinated and pass the anti-rabies titer test. My cat is about 10 years old and has never been vaccinated so I had him brought to a vet today. The vet did some laboratory tests on him and the result showed that he has low blood cells and infected liver and has to take kidney diet also. The vet prescribed antibiotics and said that with my cat’s age and health condition ,he may not be able to successfully survive vaccination. Does that mean there is no more hope for my cat to be vaccinated ever, Dr. Elliot? What if he gets completely well because he is now taking antibiotics for the liver infection, do you think it is still possible to give him the two-shot vaccine that is required? The vaccine is a 5 in 1 vaccine, I don’t know the name but I was told it is given in two shots with a one month waiting period between the first and the second shots. Do you think my 10 yr. old cat can still successfully go through this vaccination if his health improves after the treatment?

I am so sad living so far away from my cat but, of course, his life is my top priority. Please help me know if there is still a chance for my cat to survive vaccination if he gets well.

I hope you can send your reply to me in my email. Thank you very much.

BL Ochman

Dr Elliot is on vacation with extremely limited email access. Sorry!


My cats did not receive vaccinations as kittens. I got them vaccinated with FVRCPC, FeLV, and rabies at about 1 1/2 years of age. I was told they needed a booster of the FVRCPC and FeLV 3 weeks later, then again a year later with another rabies vaccine. I forgot to get the 3 week boosters, though. I’m taking them to get their second rabies shot soon. If I get the other two vaccines again, will that give them enough immunity or would I need to also do a 3 week booster and repeat in a year (like I was supposed to – still kicking myself for forgetting)? My cats are indoor/outdoor. Thanks!

Lee Ann rissler

I have 2 – 5 year old cats indoor ONLY that have not had ANY vaccinations since their kitten shots…I want to introduce another cat (foster) to the house…foster cat is utd on shots. What are the risks to my non-utd cats?

Jill Elliot

If the other cat is healthy and up to date on all its shots I don’t see any reason for you to vaccinate your cat.


Vaccinations will shorten cat life and give them many health problems. My aunt cat is 28 years old, she is healthy and happy she never vaccinate her.

BL Ochman

Seriously? Your aunt has a 28 year-old cat! That’s terrific!

colleen codd

I have been feeding two cats that always come to door and finally I was able to get them to come in they are somewhere between 1 and 2 years old I just took them in for rabies shots and fvrcp the vet suggested that they be neutered in 3 weeks when they will also get their fvrcp boosters. My question is after this do I have to keep getting the fvrcp and after 3 yr rabies do I have to continue with that as well as I do not want there to be bad repercussions behind too many vaccines yet I want them both to be vaccinated as best as possible. Thank you

BL Ochman

Hi – Dr Elliot is on vacation until September and she will respond when she returns.

Dianne Kemp

I am planning to move from Michigan to Colorado soon. I have 3 cats ages 14.10 and 6 and a 10 year old, 70 pound dog. I am looking for advice on how to move them and how to make it easier for them.
Thank you


I have a new born baby and a in door kitten that hasn’t had his vaccinations, last night one of my older children let him out but has returned this morning. Should I be worried about him be near my new born and the infections he could of caught….


Four days after our 8 week old kitten got her first FVRCP vaccination, her right hind leg and left front leg became lame. She could hardly walk by the day’s end. We took her to the vet at the onset of the lameness and were told she should have a full set of x-rays, testing for leukemia and HIV. We paid $90 for the testing and decided to wait a couple of days before spending hundreds of dollars on x-rays (having had cats all my life, I’ve seen them get better on their own most of the time).

As soon as my husband and I got home from the vet, he researched our kitten’s symptoms and found that lameness is often a reaction to the first FVRCP vaccination. When I had asked the vet about that possibility during our appointment, she said it was highly doubtful beyond 72 hours. She was wrong — in every article I’ve seen, these reactions commonly occur up to 3 weeks following the vaccination and usually subside within 4-7 days on their own.

That is exactly what happened in our situation.

My kitten is now due for her second round of this FVRCP vaccine and I am concerned about the risk factor. We are now going to a new vet but she doesn’t seem terribly familiar with this reaction either (despite coming highly recommended by a friend).

I am wondering if you can shed light on what to do now that it’s time for the second vaccination?


My 7 month old kitten went in for nuerting this past wed and on the samr day thry gavr him his rabie and ANOTHER vaccination, they said he died right after..is thi common to give shots after surgery? They said its protocol. They dont kno exactly y he passed. I ask y couldnt they wait for him to fully wake up. Should i hadthe right to decline shots?


I was bitten by my cat who is about 5months old and never had any vaccine done.she was ince exposed once when she had a fight with a stray cat,she obtain some wound but im not sure if it was a cat bite or a scratch.its been 2 weeks.im not sure if we both need shot for anti rabies.im also worried for my nieces who love to play with her.they obtained some scratches too and our cat love to bite our hands and feets.im a little anxious already.please i need your adviice

Jill Elliot, DVM

Dear Sayangku:
Whenever someone is bitten by an animal that does not have a history of having a currrent Rabies vaccine they should contact their physician IMMEDIATELY to get guidance in this area. You should also take your cat to your local vet and speak with them about this situation. DO NOT WAIT. This can be a life threatening situation if not dealt with immediately. I am not one for over vaccinating animals. However I always suggest owners give their cats and dogs the first series of vaccines which includes a Rabies vaccine. Best of luck to you. Dr. Jill Elliot


My indoor cats have had their initial a shots,but no boosters. I take one cat to the groomers to be shaved ,is she in danger of catching anything. I’m not sure how many cats are there usually just dogs and she’s in a carrier till they do the actual grooming. Does she need more vaccines?


My indoor cat was diagnosed with a vacine induced sarcoma after I found a lump on the side where they give her the rabies vacination. You would think totally differently after you have to see your pet go through an attempt to save her life via surgery/removal of the lump and them see them suffer until death if it has spread. My indoor cats will NO longer get vacinnated. I was just sick knowing that by ME trying to be a good pet owner and get every vacination yearly caused the demise of one of my precious babies. Its just heart breaking.

BL Ochman

So sorry for your loss Lori! Thanks for sharing the story with us!


Hi there. I have 3 indoor cats ages 8 and 6, all had their kitten vaccines and boosters a year later. They are doing in for a dental cleaning, should I update the FVRCP? Is there a risk that they may catch something from being at the vet. I understand the article says you recommend vaccinating if going for a procedure, but reading through the comments you advise not to vaccinate after the first booster, so I’m a bit confused. I worry about the injection site tumors, but I worry about them catching virus’. Also, is the Merial FVRCP vaccine safe like the Purevax?


I got a scratch from my 2months old persian kitten . she’s not vaccinated yet.is there any problem with me?do I take rabies injections for me?

Sue Clark

I have a 22 year old indoor cat who is quite feeble at this point. Last time he was at the vet (he goes fairly often) they mentioned he needed his rabies shot, as required by law, which I refused. Would you vaccinate such a senior cat at all? Especially an indoor cat?


I have a 5 year old female house cat who has never had any vaccinations and has never been outside. Is it advisable to get them to be safe or not? Thanx

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