All cats, regardless of whether they reside indoors or outdoors are susceptible to a variety of illnesses and diseases. This makes feline vaccinations important for all cats. Our Mandeville share some more information on why your indoor cat needs their vaccines as well as the recommended vaccination schedule.
Several serious feline-specific diseases afflict many cats every year. To protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, it’s critical to have them vaccinated. You should also ensure that you continue bringing them in for routine booster vaccines throughout their lives to protect them. This goes for cats that are indoor companions as well.
The aptly named booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. There are booster shots for different vaccines given on specific schedules. Your vet can provide advice on when you should bring your cat back for more booster shots.
Why are vaccines important for my indoor cat?
Though you may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, by law cats must have certain vaccinations in many states. For example, the common law requires cats over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated against rabies. In return for the vaccinations, your veterinarian will provide you with a vaccination certificate, which should be stored in a safe place.
When considering your cat’s health, it’s always prudent to be cautious, as cats are often curious by nature. Our vets recommend core vaccinations for indoor cats to protect them against diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home.
Types of Cat Vaccines
There are two basic types of vaccinations 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 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 cause eye problems.
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will provide advice about which non-core vaccines your cat should have. These 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.
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.
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 or cat receive their vaccines?
You should bring your kitten to see your vet for their first round of vaccines when they are about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitten should get a series of vaccines at three-to-four week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks old.
Cat Vaccine 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
When will my cat need to return for booster vaccines?
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.
Does the first round of vaccines protect my cat or kitten?
Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitten will not be fully vaccinated. Once all of their initial vaccines have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
If you’d like to allow your kitten outdoors before they have been vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas, like your own backyard.
Common side effects from cat vaccines
Most cats will not experience any side effects as a result of receiving cat vaccines. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short in duration. However, keep these potential negative side effects in mind:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness of swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine. They can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.