Our Middlesex vets understand that skipping vaccines for indoor cats can be tempting. That said, even if your kitty remains inside, there are some good reasons to have your furry companion vaccinated.
Getting Your Cat's Shots
Millions of cats across the United States are affected by numerous serious feline diseases every year. To protect your feline companion from contracting a preventable disease, it's important to have them vaccinated. It's equally critical to follow up your kitten's vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime - even if your kitty is an indoor cat.
Just as the name suggests, booster shots "boost" your cat's protection against many feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine have worn off. Different vaccines have booster shots that should be administered on specific schedules. Your vet can tell you when your cat should come back for their booster shots.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
You may not think it important to vaccinate indoor cats. It may be obvious why your dog needs vaccinations as they are more likely to interact with other animals on walks, in boarding shelters and in other environments. However, if your indoor cat sneaks outside, visits a groomer or has to stay at a boarding facility while you're away from home, they may be exposed to potentially serious diseases.
Plus, in many US states, certain vaccinations must be administered to all cats on a regular schedule. For example, most states require that cats over 6 months old be vaccinated against rabies. You'll receive a certificate showing that your cat has been vaccinated as required from your veterinarian once your cat has had their shots.
Types of Vaccinations for Cats
There are two types of pet vaccinations available: core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines.
Our vets in Middlesex strongly recommend that all cats have core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they may be exposed to.
Core Vaccines for all Cats
All cats should have core vaccinations, as these are essential for protection against the following common but serious feline conditions:
- Feline Herpesvirus Type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This ubiquitous virus is highly contagious - and a major cause of upper respiratory infections. Spread through direct contact, sharing of food bowls or litter trays or inhalation of sneeze droplets, the virus can infect cats for life. Some will keep shedding the virus, and persistent FHV infection can lead to issues with eyes and vision.
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calcicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Usually referred to as the distemper shot, this combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.
- Rabies - This disease kills many mammals (including humans) every year. These vaccinations are required by law for cats in most states.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle, and level of exposure to disease. Your vet is in the best position to 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.
The Importance of Shots for Kittens
Your kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations when they are about six to eight weeks old (similar to the timing for your puppy's vaccinations). Following this, your kitty should get a series of shots at three-to-four week intervals until they reach approximately 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
Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitten will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial round of vaccines have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
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 not experience any side effects as a result of getting their shots. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor 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 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.