Our Moreno Valley vets understand the temptation to skip your indoor cat's vaccinations, but we are here to tell you why it is still a good idea to keep your indoor cat's vaccinations up-to-date so they remain protected from life-threatening but preventable diseases.
About Cat Vaccinations
There are many serious feline-specific diseases that have the potential to affect a large number of US cats every year. The only way to protect your cat from these preventable conditions is to keep them vaccinated. It is just as important to follow up your kitten's initial vaccinations with booster shots, even if they are indoor cats.
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 let you know the schedule you will need to follow for your indoor cat.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
Though you may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, by law all cats must have certain vaccinations in many states. For example, many states require that cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has their shots your veterinarian will 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 vets strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home, visit a groomer, or need to stay at a boarding facility while you're away.
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) 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 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.
Getting Your Kitten Their Shots
You should bring your kitten in for their first set of shots when they are between six and eight weeks of age. After this, your kitten needs to complete a series of shots every three to four weeks until they are 16 weeks old.
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Review nutrition and grooming
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
Second visit (12 weeks)
- 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
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.
Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitten 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 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
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects of cat vaccines, call your veterinarian immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.