Why are vaccines for cats important?
There is a great deal of feline-specific diseases that affect a large number of cats across the US every year. To protect your cat from contracting or spreading these potentially serious diseases it is essential that they be vaccinated when they are a kitten. Also make sure your indoor cat receives 'booster shots' by following their vet recommended vaccination schedule throughout their life.
As the name suggests, booster shots "boost" your cat's protection so that the effects of the initial vaccine never wear off. Booster shots for your indoor cat are given on a specific vaccination schedule recommended by your vet.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
Though it might seem unnecessary to vaccinate your indoor cat, in many states certain vaccines are required by law. For instance, in many states, cats over the age of 6 months are required to be vaccinated against rabies. At which point your vet will provide you with the proper documentation stating your cat has been properly vaccinated.
As careful as you try to be, it's always possible that your indoor at could sneak out an open window or door. If this were to happen, you want to make sure your cat is protected from any contagious and potentially deadly viruses lurking around while they sniff around this new environment.
If your cat takes a trip to the groomers or has to spend time in a boarding facility, vaccines are necessary to protect your pet from any viruses that could be spread by another cat that may have been there before them. You can never be too careful.
There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our vets strongly recommend that all cats - both indoor cats and outdoor cats - receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.
What are core vaccines for cats?
Core vaccinations should be given to all cats, as they are essential for protecting them 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.
What are lifestyle (non-core) cat vaccines?
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet is in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Lifestyle vaccines 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.
When should my kitten get their shots?
Shots for kittens should begin when they reach 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
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- 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
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
When should my cat get 'booster' shots?
Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should get booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will set up a proper vaccination schedule for your indoor cat.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to indoor vs outdoor cats it changes based on the vaccines that are best suited for your cats lifestyle. Your vet will advise you as to which vaccines your cat should have.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Your kitten will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old). 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.
Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?
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 you suspect that your kitty may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine call your vet immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.
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.