Skipping vaccinations for your indoor cat may be tempting but cat and kitten vaccines are as important for our feline homebodies as they are for cats who explore the great outdoors. Today our O’Fallon vets explain why vaccines for indoor cats are essential.
Each year, a large number of cats and kittens are affected by serious diseases spread between cats. To protect your cat from contracting a serious but preventable condition, it's critical to start vaccinating them when they're just a few weeks old 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.
The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated
You may not believe that your indoor cat requires vaccinations, but in many states, all cats are required by law to receive certain vaccinations. Many states, for example, require cats over the age of 6 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.
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 kitty to contact 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 categories of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our O’Fallon 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.
Core Vaccines 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 - 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 will continue to shed the virus, and long-term FHV infection can cause vision problems.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Cat Vaccines
Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should receive. Lifestyle vaccinations protect 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.
Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule
Shots for kittens - whether your kitty will live indoors or be allowed out to roam - should be given starting at about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your cat should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach about 16 weeks of age.
The vaccination schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the distinctions between vaccinating indoor cats and outdoor cats, it 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.
When To Get Shots for Kittens
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
Booster Shots for Cats
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.
Your cat will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all rounds of 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 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 backyard.
Side Effects From Cat Vaccines
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 believe that your cat is experiencing side effects from a 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.