Today our Hoquiam vets explain why it’s important to get your indoor cat vaccinated and the appropriate times you should bring them in for their shots.

What are cat vaccinations?

There are several serious feline-specific diseases that affect many cats every year. To keep your kitten safe from preventable conditions, it’s critical to have them vaccinated. It’s equally important to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if you want your cat to be 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.

Why should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?

You might believe that your indoor cat doesn't need any vaccinations, but there are laws that require cats to have certain vaccinations in many states. For example, a common law requires cats over 6 months old to be vaccinated against rabies. In return for these vaccinations, your veterinarian will provide you with a vaccination certificate, that you should be keep in a safe place. When taking your cat's health into consideration, it’s always important 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.

Cat Vaccines

There are two basic types of vaccinations for cats "Core vaccinations" and "Non-core vaccinations".

Core vaccinations should be given to all cats, because they are essential for protecting them against the following serious common feline conditions:

Rabies: Rabies kills many mammals (even 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 very contagious, ubiquitous virus is a major cause of upper respiratory infections. It's spread when cats share litter trays or food bowls, inhale sneeze droplets or through 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 based on their lifestyle. Your vet will let you know which non-core vaccines your cat should get. These offer protection against:

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv): These vaccines protect against viral infections that are transmitted through close contact. They are usually only recommended for cats that go outdoors.

Bordetella: This bacteria causes upper respiratory infections that are extremely contagious. Your vet might recommended this vaccine 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 this infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.

When should my kitten receive their first shots?

Your kitten should go to the vet for their first round of vaccines when they are about six to eight weeks old. After this, they should get a series of vaccinations in three-to-four week intervals until they are 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

When will my cat need booster shots?

Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should be given booster shots either annually or every three years. Your veterinarian will inform you when should bring your adult cat back in for thier booster shots.

Is my kitten protected after their first round of shots?

Until your kitten has gotten all of their vaccinations (when they are approximately 12 to 16 weeks old), your cat will not be fully vaccinated. After they have all of their initial vaccinations your kitten will be protected against the specific conditions or diseases covered by the vaccines. If you want to let your kitten outside before they have been fully vaccinated against the diseases listed above, we suggest keeping them restricted to low-risk areas, such as your backyard.

What are the potential side effects of cat vaccinations?

Most cats wont experience any side effects from vaccines. However, if they do the effects are usually minor and don't last long. But, do keep an eye out for the following side effects:
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness or swelling around injection site
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Vomiting

Call our Hoquiam vets immediately if you suspect your cat is having side effects to a vaccine. Your veterinarian will be able to come up with treatment options and any special care that might be required. 

If it's time for your indoor cat's vaccinations or booster shots contact our Raintree Veterinary Hospital team to book an appointment.