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Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated? Why & When

Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated? Why & When

While some may consider skipping vaccinations for their indoor cat, it is crucial to understand that vaccines are equally important for indoor cats as they are for outdoor cats. Our veterinarians at Meadow Vista elaborate on the reasons why indoor cats need vaccines.

Cat Vaccines

It is crucial to get your cat vaccinated when they are a few weeks old and continue with regular booster injections throughout their lives to prevent serious diseases that cats can spread. Booster shots help strengthen your cat's immunity against various feline diseases once the effects of the initial vaccine wear off.

Your vet will provide you with a schedule for booster shots, so make sure you follow their advice and take your cat for their shots at the appropriate times.

The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated

While you may not believe that your indoor cat requires vaccinations, it is important to note that in many states, certain vaccinations are required by law. For instance, many states mandate that cats over the age of 6 months must receive the rabies vaccine. Once your feline has been vaccinated, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate that confirms your cat's compliance with the law.

Another compelling reason to vaccinate your indoor cat is that they have a tendency to sneak out of the house when you're not looking. A quick sniff around your yard could lead to your cat contracting one of the many highly contagious feline viruses.

If your indoor cat spends time at a boarding facility or with a groomer while you're out of town, it's essential that they receive the necessary vaccinations to ensure their health and well-being. There's always a risk of viruses spreading wherever other cats have been, so it's important to take the necessary precautions to protect your beloved pet.

Two types of vaccinations are available for pets: "core vaccines" and "lifestyle vaccines." Our veterinarians at Meadow Vista strongly recommend that all cats, whether indoor or outdoor, receive core vaccinations to safeguard them against highly contagious diseases.

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) - This combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, and is commonly referred to as the "distemper" shot.
  • Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - One of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections is this highly contagious and widespread virus. The virus can infect cats for life if they share litter trays or food bowls, inhale sneeze droplets, or come into direct contact. Some people will continue to shed the virus, and FHV infection can cause vision problems.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Cat Vaccines

Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to tell you which non-core vaccines your cat needs. Vaccines for a healthy lifestyle protect against:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines protect against viral infections spread through close contact. They're usually only recommended for cats who spend a lot of time outside.
  • Bordetella - This bacteria causes highly contagious upper respiratory infections. If you're taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel, your vet may recommend this vaccine.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.

Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule

Shots for kittens - whether your kitty will live indoors or be allowed out to roam -  should be given starting at about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your cat should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach about 16 weeks of age.

For all cats, the recommended vaccination schedule is the same. It's a question of which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle when it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs. outdoor cats. Your veterinarian will advise you on which vaccines your cat needs.

When To Get Your Kitten Their Shots

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

Booster Shots for Cats

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.

Fully Vaccinated 

It's important to note that your cat won't be considered fully vaccinated until they receive all rounds of vaccinations, typically given when they're between 12 to 16 weeks old. Once your kitten completes all of their initial vaccinations, they should be protected against the diseases and conditions covered by the vaccines. If you're eager to take your kitten outside before they are fully vaccinated, keeping them in low-risk areas such as your backyard is best.

Side Effects From Cat Vaccines

The vast majority of cats will have no negative side effects as a result of their vaccinations. If there are any reactions, they are usually minor and short-lived. However, in rare instances, more severe reactions can occur, such as:

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Fever

If you suspect that your cat is experiencing any adverse reactions to a vaccine, it's best to contact your veterinarian right away. They can provide you with guidance on any necessary follow-up or special care.

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.

Are your cat's vaccinations due? You can schedule an appointment for your beloved feline with the veterinarians at Meadow Vista by contacting us today. 

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Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic is accepting new patients including dogs, cats and large animals. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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