You might not think that your indoor cat is susceptible to feline-specific diseases but our Tracy vets are here to tell you why it's just as important to get your indoor cat vaccinated.
Why are vaccines for cats important?
There are many serious diseases that affect a large number of cats across the US every year. It is important to get your feline friend vaccinated to protect them from contracting these serious but preventable illnesses. Vaccination needs to start as kittens and 'booster shots' will be recommended by your vet following an appropriate indoor cat vaccination schedule throughout their life.
Booster shots “boost” your cat’s immunity against a variety of diseases after the effects of the first vaccine wear off. You need to make sure to get your cat shots on a specific schedule. Your vet will advise you when to bring your cat back in for their booster shots.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
Despite what many might think, you need to vaccinate your indoor cat just as much as outdoor cats, some states even require specific vaccines by law. In many states, cats over the age of 6 months are required by law to receive their rabies shot. Your vet will provide you with a certificate stating that your cat has been properly vaccinated.
Cats are by nature, very sneaky. They could easily slip out the front door while you have your back turned. If this happens you want to be sure that your feline companion won't be susceptible to any serious and contagious diseases while they are sniffing around this strange new environment.
If your indoor cat is taken to a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away, you will definitely want to vaccinate your cat to protect its health. Disease can spread anywhere that another cat has been - you can never be too careful.
There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for your cat, '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 contagious diseases they could potentially be exposed to.
What are core vaccines for cats?
Core vaccinations should be given to all cats to 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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Kitten Vaccination Schedule
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Review nutrition and grooming
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
Second visit (12 weeks)
- Examination and external check for parasites
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
When should my cat get 'booster' shots?
Once initial vaccinations are complete, depending on the vaccine given, adult cats should get booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will determine the proper vaccination schedule for your indoor or outdoor cat.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
Veterinarians recommended the same vaccination schedule for all cats. The difference between when to vaccinate indoor vs outdoor cats lies with the lifestyle your cat leads. Your vet will know best which vaccines your cat should receive.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Until they have received all doses of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your cat will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the condition covered by the vaccines.
If you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, our Tracy vets recommend keeping them in a low-risk environment such as your own backyard.
Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?
Most cats display no side effects as a result of 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're concerned your cat may be experiencing side effects from their vaccine call your vet immediately! Your vet can help you determine any follow-up or special care 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.