Our Lebanon vets know that it can be tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but even if your feline friend never leaves the house, there are still some excellent reasons to have your cat vaccinated. Here, our veterinary team explains why you should have your indoor cat vaccinated.
About Cat Vaccinations
There are a number of serious and feline-specific diseases that affect a huge number of American house cats every year. In order to protect your cat from contracting these preventable conditions, it's important that you have them vaccinated. It's equally important that you follow up on your cat's first vaccination with regular booster shots scheduled with your vet to help maintain their resiliency against infection.
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 advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
While you may think that your indoor cat can get by without having to be vaccinated, by law all cats have to have certain vaccinations depending on what state you live in. Many states, for example, require that any cats over the age of 6 be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has had their shots, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate showing your cat has been vaccinated to the standards set by law.
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 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.
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Typically known as the “distemper” shot, this combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.
Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Non-core vaccines are appropriate for cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will be in the best position to recommend what non-core vaccine your cat should have. Some examples of conditions these lifestyle vaccines protect against are:
- 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.
- 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.
Getting Your Kitten Their Shots
Your kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations when they are 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.
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
Depending on the specific vaccine, adult cats may require booster shots either once each year or every three years. Your vet will tell you when you can 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 kitty 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 are planning on letting your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, our vets highly recommend that you restrict them to low-risk areas like your 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:
- Severe lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine call your veterinarian immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.