In this post, our Goleta vets explain why it's important to vaccinate your indoor cat and discuss the recommended vaccination schedule for cats.
Vaccinations For Cats
Every year, many cats get affected by serious Feline-specific diseases. In order to keep your kitten safe from preventable conditions, it’s essential to get them vaccinated. It’s just as important to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if you want them to be an indoor companion.
The appropriately titled 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 give you advice on when you should bring your cat back for more booster shots.
Why It's Important To Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
While you might not believe that your indoor cat has to be vaccinated, in many states, there are laws that require cats to get certain vaccinations. For example, a 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 taking your cat’s health into consideration, it’s always best to be cautious, as many cats are 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.
There are two main types of vaccinations for cats.
Core vaccinations should be given to every cat (indoor and outdoor cats), as they are essential for protecting them against these 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 based on their lifestyle. Your vet will give you advice on which non-core vaccines are best for your kitty. These offer protection against:
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv)
These vaccines protect against viral infections that are transmitted via close contact. Generally, they are only 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 Kittens Should Get Their First Shots
You should take your kitten to the vet to get their first round of vaccinations when they are between six and eight weeks old. After this, your kitten should recive a series of vaccines at three-to-four-week intervals until they are about 16 weeks old.
Vaccination Schedule For Kittens
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Review nutrition and grooming
Second visit (12 weeks)
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- Examination and external check for parasites
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
When Cats Need Booster Shots
Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should receive their booster shots either once a year or every three years. Your vet will inform you when you need to bring your adult cat back for booster shots.
Are Kittens Safe After Their First Set of Shots?
Until they have gotten all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitten won't be completely vaccinated. After all of their initial vaccinations have been administered, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions the vaccines cover.
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.
Potential Side Effects of Cat Vaccinations
Most cats won't develop any side effects from their vaccinations. 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 or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you think your cat is experiencing vaccine side effects. They 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.