Our Pleasant Hill vets know that it can be tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but even if your feline friend stays inside there are some good reasons to get shot for kittens and cats.
About Cat Vaccinations
Every year, a large number of cats in the United States are infected with serious Feline-specific diseases. It is critical to have your kitten vaccinated to protect them from contracting a preventable condition. Even if your kitten is an indoor cat, it's critical to follow up on their first vaccinations with regular booster shots throughout their life.
Booster shots, as the name implies, "boost" your cat's protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Booster shots for various vaccines are administered regularly. Your veterinarian will tell you when it's time to bring your cat back for booster shots.
Reasons to Get Cat Shots
Though you may not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations, many states require all cats to have certain vaccinations. For example, cats over the age of six months need a vaccination against rabies. Once your cat has received their vaccinations, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate indicating that they have been vaccinated as required.
There are two types of vaccinations for pets: 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines.'
Our veterinarians strongly advise that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them from highly contagious diseases that they may be exposed to if they escape the safety of your home, visit a groomer, or need to stay at a boarding facility while you're away.
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 and widespread virus is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections. The virus can infect cats for life if it is spread through the sharing of litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets, or direct contact. Some will continue to shed the virus, and long-term FHV infection can cause vision problems.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should receive. Lifestyle vaccines protect 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 and is highly contagious. This vaccine may be recommended 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
When your kitten is six to eight weeks old, they should receive their first round of vaccinations. Following that, your cat should receive a series of shots at three to four-week intervals until they reach the age of 16 weeks.
Indoor Cat 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.
Your cat will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all of their vaccinations (around 12 to 16 weeks old). Your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines once all of their initial vaccinations have been completed.
If you intend to let your kitten out before they have been fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, keep them in low-risk areas such as your backyard.
Potential Vaccine Side Effects
The vast majority of cats will have no adverse reactions to their vaccinations. When reactions do occur, they are usually minor and brief. However, in rare cases, more serious reactions can occur, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you suspect your cat is suffering from side effects from a cat vaccine, contact your veterinarian right away! Your veterinarian can advise you on any special care or follow-up that may be required.