Rabies is one of the most dangerous viruses in the world. It can infect any mammal and is almost always fatal once symptoms develop. Fortunately, there are safe and effective vaccines to protect pets and humans from rabies. In most of the United States, vaccinating cats against rabies is required by law, even if they live exclusively indoors.
In this article, we’ll provide estimated costs for getting your cat a rabies shot, including the different vaccine options available. We’ll also let you know ways to get your cat their rabies shot on a budget if necessary.
Rabies Shot for a Cat: One-Time Costs
Kittens generally receive their first rabies shot when they are 3-4 months old. After the initial shot, they’ll receive regular boosters starting one year later. For the first rabies shot, you may also need to pay an examination fee, depending on where you have the vaccine done.
Because preventing rabies is a matter of public health for humans, you may be able to find a free rabies shot clinic in your area. Some non-profit organizations hold regular free clinics if you can’t find a permanent one. These clinics are often fast-paced and crowded, so you may need to spend some time waiting for your cat to receive a rabies shot.
Far more common than free clinics are low-cost options. Animal shelters and humane societies often provide low-cost rabies shots and other veterinary services. The clinics may or may not include a physical exam with the rabies shot, possibly for an additional fee. Some low-cost clinics allow walk-ins, while others still require an appointment.
The highest cost option for getting your cat a rabies shot will be a traditional veterinary clinic. Almost all vet clinics will charge for an office visit/physical exam in addition to the rabies shot itself. Also, vet clinics will always have more overhead that goes into calculating their prices than a non-profit or low-cost clinic. Veterinarian prices vary widely depending on where you are located. You may find prices in your town are lower or higher than our estimates.
Here’s a breakdown of average costs in different regions of the country:
|Region||Office Visit Cost||Rabies Shot Cost|
*Prices from Banfield Cost Estimator for Raleigh, NC, Des Moines, IA, and Los Angeles, CA*
First Rabies Booster
Your cat’s first rabies shot will be valid for one year before needing a booster. At this time, you may have the option of receiving another 1-year rabies shot or a booster good for 3 years. To receive a 3-year booster, you must prove that it is not your cat’s first rabies shot. Obviously, your vet will have that information on file, but if you go to a low-cost clinic, you’ll probably need to provide your cat’s rabies certificate.
Additional Rabies Boosters
- $10–$100 every 1-3 years
To comply with the law, your cat will need updated boosters on a regular schedule. Ideally, your cat should have a physical exam with your vet each year regardless of whether they are due to receive shots or not. However, many cat owners only see the vet when shots are due, which in this case will be every 1–3 years.
Alternative to Rabies Shots
Some cat owners dislike the idea of continuing to get vaccines for their kitties and wonder if alternatives are available. A few laboratories in the country can perform rabies titer testing, which checks the level of protective antibodies in your cat’s blood. The titers are often required if you intend to take your cat to a rabies-free country such as Australia or Great Britain. However, they are generally not accepted in place of rabies vaccines by public health authorities. That means that your cat may not be considered vaccinated in case of a bite or exposure. Rabies titers are expensive and cost much more than vaccinating your cat.
Other Factors That Influence the Cost of Rabies Shots
The specific brand of rabies shot your cat receives may also play a role in how much it costs.
Some veterinarians carry rabies shots, both one-year and three years boosters, made specifically for cats. These formulas are free of certain additives that may be linked to a rare complication of vaccines in cats, injection-site sarcomas.
The feline formula rabies shots are more expensive than the generalized version. If that’s the only kind your vet carries, you can expect to pay more for a rabies shot.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Rabies Shots?
Standard pet insurance typically only covers accidents, illnesses, and emergencies. Rabies shots fall under the category of preventative or wellness care. Many pet insurance companies offer wellness plans as an add-on to standard coverage.
However, the plans may cost $10-$35 per month. If you’re only looking to pay for a rabies shot, the monthly cost of a wellness plan probably won’t add up. Before investing in a wellness policy, add up the costs of your cat’s yearly (or twice yearly) vet visits to see what your actual savings are.
Does My Cat Need a Rabies Shot If They Only Live Indoors?
The short answer to this question is yes because it’s usually against the law not to get one. The long answer is also yes because living indoors doesn’t mean your cat will never be exposed to rabies. Most warm-blooded animals carry rabies, including ones small enough to sneak into your house.
All you have to do is check social media to see videos of raccoons breaking into homes through pet doors or open windows. Bats are one of the most common carriers of rabies and often construct nests in attic spaces. Cat owners in rural areas must try to avoid skipping a rabies vaccine for their pets.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that if your cat bites someone, medical personnel or your veterinarian are generally legally required to report the bite to animal control. If your cat is not up-to-date on its rabies shot, you could be looking at a whole other type of cost, which we’ll cover in the next section.
The Potential Cost of Not Getting Your Cat a Rabies Shot
Again, because rabies poses a significant human health risk, many of the rules dealing with prevention and exposure are set by human public health officials. Each state and local government usually has set ordinances and regulations regarding what happens to an unvaccinated cat that either bites someone or is exposed to rabies by another animal.
In some cases, your cat may be required to quarantine at an approved location for a set length of time, with you footing the bill. You also may be looking at fines or penalties for failing to get your cat a shot. If a known rabid animal bites your unvaccinated cat, you could face the worst-case scenario of losing your pet permanently.
The cost of not getting your cat a rabies shot is far greater than having it done, especially if you follow the money-saving tips in the next section.
Getting a Rabies Shot for a Cat On a Budget
The cheapest way to keep your cat up-to-date on their rabies shot is to find a free or low-cost clinic in your area. Your city or county may keep a list of these resources on their animal control or public health websites. Humane societies or animal shelters are other places to look.
If you can’t find a clinic, shop around to different veterinary offices in your area to find the lowest-priced vaccines. Ask if any of them perform yearly vaccine clinics where you can get shots without paying for office visits.
You can also ask if your vet runs monthly specials where you may be able to get certain services, such as vaccines, at a discount.
Depending on where you get your cat’s rabies shot, you can expect to spend $0–$100 every 1–3 years for this service. Standard pet insurance typically doesn’t cover rabies shots, and monthly premiums for wellness plans will probably add up to more than you’d pay for the shot itself.
For your cat’s safety, get their rabies shot each time it’s due. Owning a cat is a privilege, but many responsibilities come with it, including providing your pet the health care they need. In the case of a rabies shot, you’re also looking after your own health by continuing to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease.
Featured Image Credit: Kachalkina Veronika, Shutterstock
- Rabies Shot for a Cat: One-Time Costs
- Other Factors That Influence the Cost of Rabies Shots
- Does Pet Insurance Cover Rabies Shots?
- Does My Cat Need a Rabies Shot If They Only Live Indoors?
- The Potential Cost of Not Getting Your Cat a Rabies Shot
- Getting a Rabies Shot for a Cat On a Budget