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Cat Vaccination Schedule

Cat Vaccination Schedule

As a pet owner, it is important to prioritize the vaccination of our feline companions, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. Our vets at Meadow Vista review the significance of routine vaccinations and guide kitten and cat vaccination schedules.

Why are vaccines for cats important?

There are a number of feline-specific diseases and disorders that affect a large number of cats across the US every year. To protect your cat from contracting a range of serious yet preventable diseases, it's important to begin a regular vaccination schedule during kittenhood. While your cat is young, they will receive a number of core and lifestyle vaccines based on your vet's recommendation. They will continue to receive booster shots on a regular basis throughout their lifetime. 

Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?

It may be surprising, but even indoor cats are required by law to have certain vaccinations in many states. For instance, rabies vaccinations are mandatory for cats over six months old in several states. Once your feline friend has been vaccinated, your veterinarian will provide a certificate indicating they have received the necessary shots.

Aside from legal requirements, there are other important reasons to vaccinate your indoor cat. They may have an opportunity to sneak out when you're not looking, and even a brief visit to your backyard could expose them to a contagious virus. Additionally, if your cat spends time at a boarding facility or with a groomer, vaccines are crucial for safeguarding their health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a risk of disease transmission, so it's essential to protect your indoor cat.

There are two types of vaccinations available for pets: core vaccines and lifestyle vaccines. Our veterinarians strongly recommend that all cats, whether they live indoors or outdoors, receive core vaccinations to protect them from highly contagious diseases they may 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 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 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.

What are lifestyle (non-core) cat vaccines?

Depending on your cat's lifestyle, certain non-core vaccinations may be appropriate. It is recommended that you consult with your veterinarian to determine which non-core vaccines are necessary. These lifestyle vaccines provide 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. Your vet may recommend this vaccine if you take 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 get their shots?

Shots for kittens should begin when they reach about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitty should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach approximately sixteen weeks old. A typical vaccination schedule might look something like this:

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

6 to 8 weeks

  • Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia

10 to 12 weeks 

  • Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
  • Feline Leukemia

14 to 16 weeks 

  • Rabies
  • Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
  • Feline Leukemia 2

When should my adult cat get booster shots?

Your adult cat's booster shot schedule will depend on the type of vaccine they receive, with some requiring annual boosters while others only need them every three years. Your veterinarian will inform you of the appropriate timing for your cat's booster shot.

Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?

Until about two weeks after they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitty will not be fully vaccinated. After all their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

Much like human vaccination, it is important to remember that vaccines do not guarantee 100% protection. It is still possible for your cat to get sick, but there's a good chance that they will fair better than if they had not been vaccinated. 

If you intend to allow your kitten to roam outside prior to receiving full vaccination for all the diseases mentioned, it is advisable to confine them to low-risk zones, like your backyard, while closely monitoring their activities.

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 mild and may include tiredness, a temporary lack of appetite, and minor swelling at the injection site. In rare cases, more serious reactions can occur. If your cat experiences any of the following after being vaccinated, you should contact your vet or bring them to the nearest pet emergency hospital to be examined:

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite that persists for more than 24 hours
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site that worsens or doesn't go away
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Fever

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.

Is it time for your cat or kitten's vaccinations? Book an appointment at Meadow Vista Veterinary Clinic today. 

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