What Are Cat Vaccinations?
There are a handful of serious Feline-specific diseases that affect many cats each year. It’s important to have your kitten vaccinated in order to keep them from getting a preventable condition. It’s just as essential to follow your kitten’s first vaccinations up with regular booster shots throughout their life, even if you plan on them being an indoor cat.
The appropriately titled booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a range of feline diseases after the effects of the first vaccine wear off. There are booster shots for different vaccinations given on specific schedules, even for indoor cats. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with advice on when you should bring your kitty back in for their booster shots.
Why Should I Vaccinate My Indoor Cat?
While you might not believe your indoor cat needs to be vaccinated, by law in many states cats have to have certain vaccinations. For example, there is a law common in many states that requires cats over 6 months old to be vaccinated against rabies. In return for the vaccinations, your veterinarian will give you a vaccination certificate, that should be kept in a safe place.
When you are taking your cat’s health into consideration, it’s always best to be cautious because cats by nature are often very curious. Our vets suggest core vaccinations for indoor cats to protect them against diseases they may be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home.
There are two basic types of vaccinations available for cats.
Core vaccinations should be given to all cats because they are key for protecting them from 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 recommended for some cats based on their lifestyle. Your vet will offer you advice on which non-core vaccines your cat should get. These can protect your cat from:
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 Get Their First Shots?
You should take your kitten to the vet for their first round of vaccinations when they are approximately six to eight weeks old. After this, your kitten should get a series of vaccines in intervals of three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks old.
Kitten Vaccination Schedule
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Review nutrition and grooming
- 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)
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
When Will My Cat Require 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.
Will My Kitten be Protected After Their First Round of Shots?
Your kitten will not be fully protected or vaccinated until they have gotten all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old). Once their initial vaccinations have been completed, then your kitty will be protected from the conditions or diseases that the vaccines cover.
If you want to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all of the diseases detailed above, we suggest keeping them restricted to low-risk areas, such as your own backyard.
Are There Potential Side Effects of Cat Vaccinations?
The majority of cats won't display any side effects after getting their vaccines. If your kitty does develop a reaction, they are typically short in duration and minor. But, keep in mind these potential negative side effects:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you think your cat might be having a reaction or side effect to a vaccine contact your veterinarian immediately. They will be able to determine if your kitty requires any special or follow-up care.