Our Edgewater vets understand that it can be tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but even if your kitty isn't allowed outside there are some good reasons to keep your cat's shots up to date.
Why are vaccines for cats important?
Every year, large numbers of cats in the United States are infected with serious feline-specific diseases. To protect your cat from contracting a serious but preventable condition, it is critical to begin vaccinating your four-legged friend as a kitten and continue with 'booster shots' on a regular basis throughout their lifetime.
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?
Though you may not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations, many states require certain vaccinations for all cats. Many states, for example, require cats over the age of 6 months 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 as required.
Another reason to vaccinate your indoor cat is that indoor cats frequently manage to sneak out the door when their owner is not looking. Just a quick sniff around your yard could be enough to expose your cat to one of the highly contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.
If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet'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 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our vets strongly recommend that all cats - both indoor cats and outdoor cats - receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.
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?
Depending on their lifestyle, some cats may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should get. Lifestyle vaccines offer protection against the following diseases:
- 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?
When kittens are between six and eight weeks old, they should start receiving shots. After that, your cat will require a series of shots spaced three to four weeks apart 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
When should my cat get '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.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
All cats should receive the same recommended vaccination schedule. Which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle will determine the differences between immunizing indoor cats versus outdoor cats. Which vaccinations your cat needs, your veterinarian will advise you.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Your cat won't be completely immunized until they have received all of their vaccinations, which typically happens when they are 12 to 16 weeks old. Your kitten will be safeguarded against the ailments or conditions covered by the vaccines once they have received all of their initial immunizations.
We advise restricting your kitten to low-risk areas like your own backyard if you intend to let them out before they have received all the necessary vaccinations against the diseases mentioned above.
Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?
The vast majority of cats will have no adverse reactions to their vaccinations. When reactions do occur, they are usually minor and brief. However, in rare cases, more serious reactions can occur, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you suspect that your kitty may be experiencing side effects from a cat 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.