Our veterinary team in Torrance and Carson know that it can be tempting for cat owners to skip their indoor cat's routine vaccinations. But, even if your feline companion stays inside, there are some excellent reasons to have your cat vaccinated.
About Cat Vaccinations
A number of serious diseases which only affect cats affect a wide variety of our feline companions in the United States each year. In order to protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, vaccinations are your best bet. It is equally important that you follow up with your cat's regular booster shots throughout their lifetime as it is that they get their first shot, even if your cat is 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. Your veterinarian will advise you when to bring your cat back their booster shots.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
Although you may not think that your indoor cat needs vaccinations, by law all cats must have a certain selection of vaccinations in a number of different states. For example, many states require that cats over 6 months old be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has their shot, your vet will be able to provide you with a certificate showing that your cat has been vaccinated as required.
There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.
Our veterinarians strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations in order to help protect them against any highly contagious diseases they may be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home, need to stay in a boarding facility, or visit a groomer.
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) each year. These vaccinations are required by law for cats in many 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 virus is a major cause of upper respiratory infections in cats. It is spread through sharing litter trays or food bowls, inhaling sneeze droplets or direct contact. This virus can infect cats for life, sometimes causing a cat to continually shed it. A persistent FHV infection can lead to eye issues.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
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 which are highly contagious. This vaccine may be recommended by your vet if you are taking your cat to a boarding kennel or groomer.
- 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
Your kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations when they are between 6 and 8 weeks old. Following this, your kitten should get a series of shots at three to four week intervals until they are about 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
Depending on the specific vaccine, adult cats should get booster shots either annually or every three years. Your veterinarian will inform you when to bring your adult cat back in for booster shots.
Your cat will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all of their vaccinations, by the time they are 12 to 16 weeks old. 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 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
- Severe lethargy
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
If you think that your cat may be experiencing side effects from a vaccine, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will be able to help you to determine any special healthcare or follow-up which they may require.