Although it might not seem important, our vets in Knightdale explain why having your indoor cat vaccinated is crucial.
About Cat Vaccinations
Every year there is an abundance of recorded serious cat-specific diseases. Having your cat vaccinated is a critical first step in protecting your furry friend from contracting a preventable condition. It is essential to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots throughout their entire lifetime, even if your kitty happens to be an indoor cat.
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. At your routine wellness exams or during your scheduled vaccination visit your vet will inform you of your cat's vaccine schedule.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
Though you may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, by law all cats must have certain vaccinations in many states. For example, many states require that cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has its shots your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate showing that your cat has been vaccinated as required.
In a large portion of the US, all cats, including indoor cats, are required to always be up-to-date on all vaccinations. One such example is the rabies vaccine which many states require for all cats over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated against. There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.
Our vets strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations as needed during regular checkups in order to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home, visit a groomer, or need to stay at a boarding facility while you're away.
Core Vaccines for Cats
It is recommended that core vaccines be given to all cats, as they are an essential part of 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 greatly benefit from other vaccinations referred to as non-core vaccines. During your visit, your vet will recommend which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Lifestyle vaccines 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.
Getting Your Kitten Their Shots
When your kitten is roughly 6 to 8 weeks old they will receive their first course of vaccinations and begin their lifelong vaccine schedule. Following this, your kitty should get regular vaccination at approximately 4-week intervals until they are roughly 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
Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should get booster shots either annually or every three years. Your veterinarian will inform you of what the ideal vaccination schedule is for your cat.
Your cat is not considered fully vaccinated until they have received all sets of initial vaccines by the age of approximately 16 weeks. After all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
We do not recommend allowing your kitten to go on outdoor adventures until they have been fully vaccinated. Although if you choose to do so we suggest that you keep them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.
Potential Vaccine Side Effects
On rare occasions, your cat might experience side effects with receiving vaccinations. These reactions will typically be mild and short in duration. That said, in rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine call your veterinarian immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.