About Cat Vaccinations
Every year in the United States, vast numbers of cats are afflicted with numerous serious feline-specific diseases. To protect your cat from contracting a preventable condition that may turn life-threatening, it's critical to ensure they are vaccinated.
It's equally imperative to visit your vet's office to follow up the initial vaccination with regular booster shots since the effectiveness of vaccines wears off. Even if yours is an indoor cat, there are a few good reasons you'll want to keep up on their vaccination schedule.
The booster shot is aptly named, as it "boosts" your kitty's protection against many feline illnesses after the initial vaccine's effects have worn off. Depending on which booster shots your cat requires, vaccines are administered on specific schedules. Your veterinarian can tell you when you should bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Reasons to Have Your Indoor Cat Vaccinated
While it may not be obvious why your indoor cat needs vaccinations, many states have laws legislating mandatory vaccinations for cats. For example, in several states cats older than 6 months need to have rabies vaccinations. Once your cat has received their shots, the veterinarian will give you a certificate indicating that your cat has been vaccinated as required.
Core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines are the two types of vaccinations available for pets. Core vaccinations are strongly recommended to prevent your cat from being exposed to highly contagious diseases if they escape the safety of your home, need to stay at a boarding facility while you are away or if they happen to visit a groomer.
Core Vaccines for Cats
All cats should receive core vaccines, as these are essential for protection against the following 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 CatsDepending on their lifestyle, we recommend non-core vaccinations for some cats. Your vet can advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Lifestyle vaccines offer protection against:
- Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
- 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.
Getting Your Kitten Their Shots
When they are about six to eight weeks old, your kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations. Following this, we should see your cat for a series of shots at three to four-week intervals until they are about 16 weeks old.
Kitten Vaccination ScheduleFirst 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
- Examination and external check for parasites
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should receive booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will notify you about when your adult cat should be brought back for booster shots.
Your kitty will not be fully vaccinated until they’ve received all of their vaccinations - when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old. After your vet has administered all of their initial vaccinations, your kitten will be protected against the conditions or diseases covered by the vaccines.
We recommend keeping your kitten in restricted to low-risk areas (such as your own backyard) if you plan to allow them outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against the diseases listed above.
Potential Vaccine Side Effects
Most cats will not experience any side effects as a result of receiving their shots. If a reaction does happen, they are usually minor and short in duration. However, in rare cases more serious reactions may occur, such as:
- Severe lethargy
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Loss of appetite
If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects due to a cat vaccine, call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet can help you determine whether 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.