It can be tempting to skip vaccination for your cat if they are fully indoors. It might seem like they are at very little risk of contracting a disease if they stay inside for most of their life. However, this is not the case. Our Laguna Beach vets explain below why it is important to get your indoor cat vaccinated.
About Cat Vaccinations
It is essential to vaccinate you kitty to keep them safe from these preventable conditions. It's also very important to stay up to date with your cat's booster shots to keep them protected after their first kitten vaccinations.
Your cat gets booster shots to help them stay immune following the vaccines they were given as a kitten, because they wear off. Each booster shot/ vaccine for indoor cats has a schedule, at your veterinary appointments your vet will let you know when it is time for your furry companions next round of booster shots.
Why Your Indoor Cat Needs to be Vaccinated
Many states have laws that make certain vaccinations mandatory for cats, even if you think your indoor kitty doesn't require them. As an example, lots of states have a law stating that all cats must be given the rabies vaccine by the time they are 6 months old. After your cat receives their vaccine your vet will provide you with a certificate that states your cat was given the required shots.
There is 2 types of vaccines that are available for cats one is 'core vaccines' the other is 'lifestyle vaccines'.
Veterinarians recommend that all indoor cats should be given core vaccinations to keep them protected from a large range of extremely contagious diseases, so they are safe from illnesses if they escape from your house, go for a grooming or if they have to stay at a boarding facility, etc.
Core Vaccines for Cats
You cat should be given core vaccinations to keep them protected from the following list of common, severe feline illnesses:
- Rabies - rabies kill lots of mammals every year, even humans. This vaccine is mandatory for cats in the majority of states.
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Often called the “distemper” shot, this is a combination vaccine that guards cats from feline viral panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis and calicivirus.
- Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This ubiquitous virus is highly contagious, and is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections and can infect cats for life. It spreads when food bowls and litter boxes are shared with other cats, through direct contact or by inhalation of sneeze droplets. Sometimes cats will shed this condition where persistent cases of FHV can create eye problems.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Some cats will need lifestyle/ non-core vaccinations depending on the lifestyle they live. Your veterinarian will let you know which ones your kitty should get. This type of vaccine protects you cat from the following conditions:
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines usually are only recommended for cats that are outdoors often and protects them against viral infections which are contracted from close contact exposure.
- Bordetella - A highly contagious bacteria that causes upper respiratory infections. Your vet might suggest this this vaccine if you are taking your cat to a boarding kennel or groomer.
- Chlamydophila felis - This vaccination is often part of the distemper combination vaccine. It protects your cat from Chlamydia which is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis.
Getting Your Kitten Vaccinated
We recommended bringing your kitten in for their first round of vaccinations when they are between six and eight weeks old. Below is a series of vaccinations your kitten should given in three to four week intervals (til 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)
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Examination and external check for parasites
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
An adult cat should receive booster shots for their vaccines every year (or once every three years for particular vaccines). Your veterinarian will confirm with you the appropriate vaccination/booster schedule for your particular cat.
Your kitten will not be fully vaccinated until they are roughly 12 - 16 weeks old, which is when they should have received all of their vaccinations. Once the initial vaccinations are given your kitty will be safe from all of the diseases and illnesses the vaccinations cover.
We recommend keeping your kitten in restricted, low-risk areas such as your backyard if you want to let them outside before they have been fully vaccinated from the diseases mentioned above.
Potential Vaccine Side Effects
A large majority of cats wont experience side effects from their shots. If a reaction does occur, they tend to be minor and last only last a short period of time. However, in rare situations some serious reactions could happen such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Severe lethargy
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
If you think your cat is developing side effects from a vaccine contact your vet immediately! Your veterinarian will assist you in determining if your cat requires special care or a follow up appointment.