Our Austin vets provide insights and advice on why it’s important to have your cat vaccinated even if they are indoors. In this post, you'll find an indoor cat vaccination schedule you may want to keep on hand.
What are cat vaccinations?
Many cats are afflicted by several feline-specific diseases each year. It's critical to have your kitten vaccinated to drastically reduce their risk of contracting a preventable condition. It's equally important to follow up your kitten's first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if you expect your kitty to remain an indoor companion.
Aptly named booster shots "boost" your cat's protection against several feline diseases after an initial vaccine's effects wear off. Booster shots for vaccines are given on specific schedules. Your vet can tell you when to bring your cat back for more rounds of booster shots.
Why should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?
While you may not think your indoor cat would need vaccinations, cats must have certain vaccinations in many states by law. For example, a common law states that all cats over 6 months need to be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has been vaccinated, you'll receive a vaccination certificate from your veterinarian. Store this in a safe place.
Be cautious when thinking about your cat's health, since cats are often curious by nature. Our vets recommend core vaccinations for indoor cats to protect them against diseases they may be exposed to if they happen to escape their safe place at your home.
There are two basic types of vaccinations 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 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 cause eye problems.
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will provide advice about which non-core vaccines your cat should have. These offer 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.
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.
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 receive their first shots?
You should bring your kitten to see your vet for their first round of vaccinations when they are about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitten should get a series of vaccines at three-to-four week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks old. Here is our schedule of shots for kittens.
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 kitten need 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 adult cat back for booster shots.
Is my kitten protected after their first round of shots?
Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitten will not be fully vaccinated. Once all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
If you’d like to allow your kitten outdoors before they have been vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas, like your own backyard.
What are potential side effects of cat vaccinations?
Most cats will not experience any side effects as a result of receiving cat vaccines. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short in duration. However, keep these potential negative side effects in mind:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness of swelling around injection site
- Severe lethargy
Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine. They can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.