About Cat Vaccinations
Every year, cats in the United States are afflicted with numerous serious feline-specific diseases. To protect your kitty from contracting a preventable, potentially life-threatening condition, it’s critical to ensure they receive their vaccinations.
It’s equally important to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots as they grow, even if your feline friend is an indoor cat.
The aptly named booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against several feline diseases after the effectiveness of the initial vaccine has worn off. Booster shots for vaccines should be administered on a specific schedule. Your veterinarian can tell you when you should bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
You may not think your indoor cat needs vaccinations. However, by law all cats must have certain vaccinations in many states. For example, in many states cats over the age of 6 months must be vaccinated against rabies. Once your veterinarian has administered your cat’s shots, you will receive a certificate showing that your cat meets the vaccination requirements.
We offer 2 types of vaccinations for pets: core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines. Our vets strongly recommend that all cats have core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they may be exposed to if they ever escape the safety of your home, see a groomer, or need to stay at a boarding facility while you are away.
Core Vaccines for Cats
All cats should receive core vaccinations, as these are vital to protecting them against these common but serious feline conditions:
- Rabies - rabies kills many mammals (including humans) every year. These vaccinations are required by law for cats in most states.
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Typically known as the “distemper” shot, this combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.
- Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This highly contagious, ubiquitous virus is one major cause of upper respiratory infections. Spread through sharing of litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets or direct contact, the virus can infect cats for life. Some will continue to shed the virus, and persistent FHV infection can lead to eye problems.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Depending on their lifestyle, non-core vaccinations may be appropriate for some cats. Your vet can offer advice on which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Lifestyle vaccines offer protection against:
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines protect against viral infections that are transmitted via close contact. They are only usually recommended for cats that spend time outdoors.
- Bordetella - This bacteria causes upper respiratory infections that are highly contagious. This vaccine may be recommended by your vet if you are taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel.
- Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
Getting Your Kitten Their Shots
Your kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations when they are about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitty should get a series of shots at three-to-four week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks old.
Kitten Vaccination Schedule
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Review nutrition and grooming
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
Second visit (12 weeks)
- Examination and external check for parasites
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- First feline leukemia vaccine
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should get booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will tell you when to bring your adult cat back for booster shots.
Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitty will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
If you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.
Potential Vaccine Side Effects
The vast majority of cats will not experience any side effects as a result of getting their shots. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short in duration. That said, in rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If your cat receives their vaccinations and you suspect that may be experiencing side effects, call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet can help you determine whether any special care or follow-up is needed.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. If you are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment.