Our Middlesex vets know that it can be tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but even if your feline friend never leaves the house, there are still some excellent reasons to have your cat vaccinated. Here, our veterinary team explains why you should have your indoor cat vaccinated.

About Cat Vaccinations

There are a number of serious and feline-specific diseases that affect a huge number of American house cats every year. In order to protect your cat from contracting these preventable conditions, it's important that you have them vaccinated. It's equally important that you follow up on your cat's first vaccination with regular booster shots scheduled with your vet to help maintain their resiliency against infection.

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. Your veterinarian will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.

Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

While you may believe that your indoor cat does not need to be vaccinated, by law, all cats must receive certain vaccinations depending on the state in which they live. Many states, for example, require cats over the age of six to be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has received their vaccinations, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate indicating that they have been vaccinated in accordance with the law.

Pet vaccinations are classified into two types: 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.

Our veterinarians strongly advise that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them from highly contagious diseases that they may encounter if they escape the safety of your home, visit a groomer, or stay at a boarding facility while you are away.

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 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.
  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Typically known as the “distemper” shot, this combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats

Non-core vaccines are appropriate for cats based on their lifestyle. Your veterinarian will be in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines your cat should receive. Lifestyle vaccines can protect against the following conditions:

  • 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.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
  • 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.

Getting Shots for Kittens

Your kitten's first round of vaccinations should be administered when they are six to eight weeks old. Following that, your kitten should receive a series of shots every three to four weeks until they are about 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

Booster Shots for Cats

Depending on the specific vaccine, adult cats may require booster shots either once each year or every three years. Your vet will tell you when you can bring your adult cat back for booster shots.

Vaccine Protection

Your kitty will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all of their vaccinations (around the age of 12 to 16 weeks). After receiving all of their initial vaccinations, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

If you intend to let your kitten outside before they have been fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, our veterinarians strongly advise you to limit them to low-risk areas such as your backyard.

Potential Vaccine Side Effects

The vast majority of cats will not experience any adverse effects as a result of receiving their vaccinations. If reactions do occur, they are typically minor and brief in duration. However, in rare cases, more serious reactions may occur, including:

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site

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.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Is your indoor cat due for their preventive vaccinations? Contact Bound Brook Veterinary Clinic to book your appointment and learn more about the kind of preventive care we offer to our feline patients.