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Cat Vaccination Schedule

Vaccinating your feline friends is crucial, even if they stay indoors. In this article, our Somerset veterinarians emphasize the significance of consistent vaccination, outlining kitten and cat vaccination schedules.

Why are vaccines for cats important?

Numerous feline-specific diseases and disorders significantly impact a substantial cat population across the US annually. To safeguard your cat against a range of preventable yet severe diseases, initiate a routine vaccination schedule during their kittenhood.

While your cat is young, your vet will administer a series of core and lifestyle vaccines per their recommendation. Your cat will also require regular booster shots throughout their lifetime.

Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?

Your indoor cat must receive certain vaccinations as required by law in many states, even if you believe they may not need them. For instance, many states mandate rabies vaccinations for cats over 6 months old. Your veterinarian will certify your cat's compliance once they receive the necessary shots.

Vaccinating your indoor cat is crucial because they often find opportunities to slip out unnoticed. A brief adventure in your backyard could expose your feline friend to contagious viruses.

Vaccination becomes even more vital for their well-being if your indoor cat visits a groomer or stays at a boarding facility while you're away. Any place where other cats have been presents a risk of disease transmission, so protecting your indoor cat is essential.

Two types of vaccines are available for pets: "core vaccines" and "lifestyle vaccines." Our veterinarians strongly recommend that all indoor and outdoor cats receive core vaccinations to safeguard them against highly contagious diseases they might encounter.

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 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?

Some cats may require non-core vaccinations based on their lifestyle. Your vet is the best authority to advise on which non-core vaccines your cat should receive. Lifestyle vaccines provide protection against:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines protect against viral infections 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. Your vet may recommend this vaccine if you take your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for this 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 sixteen weeks old. A typical vaccination schedule might look something like this:

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

6 to 8 weeks

  • Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia

10 to 12 weeks 

  • Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
  • Feline Leukemia

14 to 16 weeks 

  • Rabies
  • Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
  • Feline Leukemia 2

When should my adult 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 cat in for their booster shot. 

Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?

Your kitty won't be fully vaccinated until approximately 12 to 16 weeks old, two weeks after receiving all rounds of their vaccinations. Once they've completed their initial vaccinations, they'll be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

Just like with human vaccinations, it's essential to remember that vaccines don't offer 100% protection. Your cat could still get sick, but the chances are significantly better than if they hadn't been vaccinated.

If you intend to allow your kitten outdoors before they've received full vaccination against the diseases mentioned above, we recommend keeping them confined to low-risk areas, such as your backyard, while closely supervising them.

Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?

The vast majority of cats will not experience any side effects from getting their shots. If reactions occur, they are usually mild and may include tiredness, a temporary lack of appetite, and minor swelling at the injection site. In rare cases, more serious reactions can occur. If your cat experiences any of the following after being vaccinated, you should contact your vet or bring them to the nearest pet emergency hospital to be examined:

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite that persists for more than 24 hours
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site that worsens or doesn't go away
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Fever

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.

Is it time for your cat or kitten's vaccinations? Book an appointment at Midway Veterinary Hospital today. 

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