The thought of skipping your indoor cat's vaccines may be compelling however, it's essential for their vaccinations to be up to date. In this blog, our Stuart vets express the importance of vaccinating your indoor kitty and share the vaccination schedule for cats.
There is a range of serious diseases that are spread between cats and kittens every year. To help keep your kitty from contracting a serious, yet preventable illness, it’s imperative to start having them vaccinated from the time they are only several weeks old and to make sure they are receiving their 'booster shots' on a routine basis their entire life.
As stated in the name, booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection from a range of feline diseases once the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Cat booster shots are administered following specific schedules. Your vet will tell you when you should be bringing your kitty back for their booster shots.
Why It's Important to Keep Your Indoor Cat Vaccinated
You might not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations but in many states by law, all cats have to have specific vaccinations. An example is the rabies vaccine, which many states require cats over the age of 6 months to have. After your cat has been provided with their shots your veterinarian will give you a certificate that shows your cat has been vaccinated as required.
Another important reason to have your indoor kitty vaccinated is that many kitties manage to escape and run outside when their owners aren't looking. Your feline friend could contact a contagious virus they are susceptible to just by quickly sniffing around your backyard.
If your indoor cat goes to a groomer or stays in a boarding facility when you are not home, vaccines are very essential for maintaining your furry friend's health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of spreading viruses - make sure that your indoor cat is protected.
There are 2 categories of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our Stuart vets highly recommend core vaccinations for both indoor and outdoor cats to protect them from many highly contagious diseases that they may become exposed to.
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.
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.
Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule
Whether your kitty will spend their time indoors or be allowed to go on adventures outside, kittens should receive shots starting when they are approximately six to eight weeks old. After this, your cat should be given a series of shots at three to four-week intervals until they are roughly 16 weeks old.
The recommended vaccine schedule is the same for all cats. In regards to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs outdoor cats, it is really a matter of what vaccines best suit the lifestyle of your cat. Your vet will inform you which vaccines they recommend for your cat.
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Review nutrition and grooming
Second visit (12 weeks)
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- Examination and external check for parasites
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
Cat Booster Shots
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.
Fully Vaccinated Cats
Your kitten won't be fully vaccinated until they have gotten all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are approximately 12 to 16 weeks old). Once they have received all of their initial vaccinations, your cat will be protected from the diseases or conditions the vaccines cover.
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.
Cat Vaccination 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 believe that your cat is experiencing side effects from a vaccine call 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.