At Carrier Animal Hospital we understand how it can be tempting to skip your indoor cat's vaccinations, however, even if your kitty spends most of their time inside you should still get them vaccinated. Here, our Grand Prairie vets share some important reasons why you should vaccinate your indoor cat.
Vaccinations for Cats
There are several Feline-specific diseases that are serious and affect many cats in the US every year. To keep your kitten safe from contracting a preventable condition, it’s important to get them vaccinated. It’s just as imperative to follow up your kitty’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if they usually stay indoors.
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 Have Your Indoor Cat Vaccinated
Though you might not believe your indoor cat needs to be vaccinated, by law in many states cats must have specific vaccinations. For example, lots of states require that cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. After your cat has been given its shots your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate that shows your cat has been vaccinated as required.
There are 2 types of vaccinations available for cats, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.
Our vets highly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations to keep them safe from highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to if they do escape the safety of your home, go to a groomer, or have to stay at a boarding facility while you are out of town.
Core Vaccines for Cats
All cats should be given core vaccinations because 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 the best person to recommend which non-core vaccines your feline friend should get. Lifestyle vaccines protect your cat from:
- 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.
Giving Your Kitten Their Shots
Your kitten should get their first round of vaccinations when they are approximately six to eight weeks of age. After this, your furry friend should receive a series of shots at three to four-week intervals until they are about 16 weeks old.
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Review nutrition and grooming
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)
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
- Rabies vaccine
Depending on the type of vaccine, adult cats should be given booster shots either once a year or once every three years. Your veterinarian will let you know when you should take your adult cat back for their booster shots.
Until your cat has gotten all of its vaccinations (usually when they are roughly 12 to 16 weeks old), your feline friend won't be fully vaccinated. After they have been given all of their initial vaccinations, your kitty will be protected from the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
If you want to let your kitten outside before they have been fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.
Possible Side Effects From Cat Vaccines
Most cats don't experience any side effects after getting their shots. If your four-legged friend does have a reaction, they are generally minor and short in duration. However, in rare situations more serious reactions do arise, including:
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Loss of appetite
- Severe lethargy
If you believe your kitty is experiencing side effects from one of their vaccines call your veterinarian immediately! Your vet will be able to help you determine if your cat requires any special care or follow-up appointments.