Our O’Fallon vets provide insights and advice on why it’s important to have your cat vaccinated even if they are indoors.
What are cat vaccinations?
Every year, many cats are affected by feline-specific diseases. It is critical to have your kitten or cat vaccinated to protect them from contracting a preventable condition. It's also critical to follow up on your kitten's first vaccinations with regular booster shots throughout their life, even if you expect your cat to be an indoor companion.
The 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 provide advice on when you should bring your cat back for more booster shots.
Why should I get my cat vaccinated?
Though you may not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations, cats are required by law in many states. Cats over the age of six months, for example, are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies. In exchange for the vaccinations, your veterinarian will give you a vaccination certificate, which you should keep in a safe place.
When considering your cat’s health, it’s always important to be cautious, as cats are often curious by nature. Our Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital vets recommend vaccinations for indoor or outdoor cats to protect them against diseases they could be exposed to.
When should my kitten receive their first shots?
When your kitten is six to eight weeks old, take them to the vet for their first round of vaccinations. Following that, your kitten should receive a series of vaccines every three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks old.
Kitten Vaccination ScheduleFirst 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
- Examination and external check for parasites
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
- Rabies Vaccine
When will my kitten need 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 my kitten protected after their first round of shots?
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 all of their initial vaccinations have been completed.
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.
There are two basic types of vaccinations 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 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 people will continue to shed the virus, and long-term FHV infection can cause vision problems.
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will provide advice about which non-core vaccines your cat should have. These offer 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.
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.
What are the potential side effects of cat vaccinations?
Most cats will have no negative side effects from receiving cat vaccines. When reactions do occur, they are usually minor and brief. Keep the following potential negative side effects in mind:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness of swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy