Why are vaccines for cats important?
Serious feline-specific diseases afflict vast numbers of cats across the US every year. In order to protect your cat from contracting a serious but preventable condition, it’s critical to begin having your four-legged friend vaccinated right from the time they are a kitten and continue with 'booster shots' on a regular basis throughout their lifetime.
As the name suggests, booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Booster shots for cats are given on specific schedules. Your vet will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
Though you may not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations, many states require certain vaccinations for all cats. Many states, for example, require cats over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated 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.
Another important reason to have your indoor cat vaccinated is that indoor cats often manage to sneak out the door when their owner isn't looking. Just a quick sniff around your backyard could be enough for your feline friend to contract one of the very contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.
If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet's health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of spreading viruses - make sure that your indoor cat is protected.
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?
All cats should receive core vaccinations, which are necessary 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?
Depending on their lifestyle, some cats may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should get. Lifestyle vaccines offer protection against the following diseases:
- 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
- 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 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 tell you when to bring your adult cat back for booster shots.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
The vaccination schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the distinctions between vaccinating indoor cats and outdoor cats, it really comes down to which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. Your veterinarian will advise you on which vaccines your cat should receive.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Your kitty will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all rounds of vaccinations (around 12 to 16 weeks old). After receiving all of their initial vaccinations, 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 their vaccinations. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and brief. However, more serious reactions, such as:
- 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.