Some cat parents aren't sure whether it is necessary to vaccinate their indoor cats. Today, our Everett vets discuss the importance of vaccines for cats and why even indoor cats should be vaccinated.
Several serious diseases can impact cats specifically and can be contracted by cats whether they are indoor or outdoor pets. To protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, it’s critical to have them vaccinated. It’s equally imperative to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if you expect Fluffy to be an indoor companion.
The aptly named booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. There are booster shots for different vaccines given on specific schedules. Your vet can provide advice on when you should bring your cat back for more booster shots.
Should I Vaccinate My Indoor Cat?
Though you may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, by law cats must have certain vaccinations in many states. Some states have laws that require cats over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated against rabies. Your veterinarian will provide you with a vaccination certificate, which should be stored in a safe place.
When considering your cat’s health, it’s always prudent to be cautious, as cats are often curious by nature. Our vets recommend core vaccinations for indoor cats to protect them against diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home.
Even if your cat doesn't spend a lot of time outdoors, there are still possibilities of contracting a disease. Specifically, insects that carry diseases such as tics and mosquitos will have little trouble making their way into your home and can spread any disease they may carry to your feline friend.
Vaccines Available for Cats
There are two basic types of vaccinations 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 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 cause eye problems.
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will provide advice about which non-core vaccines your cat should have. These offer 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.
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.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
When to Vaccinate Your Cat
You should bring your kitten to see your vet for their first round of vaccinations when they are about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitten should get a series of vaccines 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
- 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
Potential Side Effects of Cat Vaccinations
Most cats will not experience any side effects as a result of receiving cat vaccines. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short in duration. However, keep these potential negative side effects in mind:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness and/or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine. They can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.