About Getting Your Cat's Shots
Every year, millions of cats in the United States are infected with a variety of serious feline diseases. It is critical to have your feline friend 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 and schedule regular booster shots 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 different vaccines are given on specific schedules. Your veterinarian will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
Our vets know that it may not seem important to vaccinate indoor cats but your indoor cat could still be exposed to potentially serious diseases if they sneak outside, have to stay at a boarding facility while you're away from home, or if they visit a groomer.
Furthermore, in many US states, all cats must receive certain vaccinations on a regular basis. Most states, for example, require cats over the age of six months to be vaccinated against rabies. After your cat has received its vaccinations, your veterinarian will issue you a certificate indicating that your cat has been properly vaccinated.
Types of Vaccinations for Cats
There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.
Our Yucaipa vets strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be unexpectedly exposed to.
Core Vaccines for All 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, 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.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Some cats may benefit from non-core vaccinations, depending on their lifestyle and level of disease exposure. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should receive. Lifestyle vaccinations provide 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.
- 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.
The Importance of Shots for Kittens
When your kitten is six to eight weeks old, they should receive their first round of vaccinations. Following that, your kitten should receive a series of shots every three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks old.
Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule for Kittens
Help to ensure your cat's good health right from the earliest stages by following the kitten vaccination schedule below.
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.
Protection After Vaccinations Have Been Given
Your kitten 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 their initial round of vaccinations has been completed.
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.
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 may be experiencing side effects from a vaccine contact 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.