Our Oakland veterinary team knows that it can be quite tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but even if your feline companion isn't allowed outside, there are many good reasons to keep your cat's shots up to date even if they are a homebody.
Why are vaccines for cats important?
There are a wide range of feline-specific diseases that afflict a huge number of cats across North America every year. To protect your cat from contracting one of these serious, but preventable, conditions, it's very important that you get your feline friend vaccinated when they are a kitten and continue with their "booster shots" on a routine basis throughout their lives.
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.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
While you may not think that an indoor cat would require vaccinations, many states have laws requiring cats to have certain vaccinations, regardless of whether they are indoor cats or not. For example, many states require all cats over 6 months old be vaccinated against rabies. After your cat has had their shots, your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a certificate to prove that your companion has been vaccinated as required.
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 feline friend to contract one of the very contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.
If your indoor cat needs to visit a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are critical for protecting your pet's health. Wherever other cats may have been, there is a chance of viruses spreading. Because of this, you should take the necessary precautions to protect your companion.
there are 2 kinds of vaccinations available to pets: "core" and "lifestyle" vaccinations. Our veterinarians strongly recommend that both indoor and outdoor cats receive their core vaccinations in order to protect them against the kinds of highly contagious diseases they may be exposed to throughout their lives.
What are 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, 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.
What are lifestyle (non-core) cat vaccines?
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. 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.
When should my kitten get their shots?
Shots for kittens should begin when they reach about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitty should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks old.
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
When should my cat get 'booster' shots?
Your adult cat should get their booster shot either every year or once every three years. Your veterinarian will tell you when to bring your adult cat in for their booster shots.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
The recommended schedule for vaccination is the same for all cats. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor versus outdoor cats, the question is really that of which vaccines are the best for your individual cat's lifestyle. Your vet will advise you as to which vaccines your cat should have.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Until they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitty will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
If you plan on letting your kitten outside before they have been entirely vaccinated against the diseases listed in the above list, we advise that you restrict them to low-risk areas like their backyards.
Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?
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
- Severe lethargy
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
If you think that your cat may be experiencing side-effects from a vaccination, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to help to sort out if any special care is 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.