Vaccinating your indoor cat might seem like a waste of time or money but our Zeeland vets are here to tell you why it is still necessary to keep your cat or kittens shots up to date.
Why are vaccines for cats important?
Feline-specific diseases affect a huge number of cats every year across the US. These diseases are completely preventable but the only way to protect your cat from contracting these potentially serious conditions is to have them vaccinated when they are a kitten and follow a strict 'booster shot' schedule throughout the rest of their life.
Booster shots are appropriately named because their job is to “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Booster shots for cats are given on specific schedules. Your vet will discuss an appropriate timeline for your outdoor or indoor cats vaccination schedule.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
While you might not think it's necessary to vaccinate your indoor cat, many states require certain vaccinations by law. For example, in most states, cats over the age of 6 months must be vaccinated against rabies and a certificate from your veterinarian showing proof of up-to-date vaccination is given.
An important reason to vaccinate your indoor cat is that indoor cats can still find their way outdoors by accident. Even a quick sniff in the front yard could be enough for your cat to become infected with a contagious and potentially deadly virus.
If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you're on vacation, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet's health. There is a chance of contracting viruses anywhere other cats have been - make sure that your indoor cat is protected.
There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, '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 highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.
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 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.
What are lifestyle (non-core) cat vaccines?
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on the lifestyle your cat has. Your vet can provide the best recommendation for 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.
When should my kitten get their shots?
Shots for kittens should begin when they reach about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitten 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)
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Review nutrition and grooming
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
Second visit (12 weeks)
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- Examination and external check for parasites
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
When should my cat get 'booster' shots?
Depending on which vaccine your vet recommends, they will give your cat shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will tell you when to bring your adult cat back for their booster shots.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs outdoor cats it is really a question of which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. Your vet will determine what your outdoor or indoor cats vaccination schedule will be.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Until they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitten will not be fully protected. Once your kitten has received all of their vaccination they 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 a fenced in backyard.
Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?
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
- Severe lethargy
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
If you suspect that your kitty may be experiencing side effects from a vaccine call your vet immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up 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.