You might think because your cat never goes outside that they don't require vaccinations. However, our San Gabriel vets still recommend keeping your indoor cat's shots up to date. In this post, we explain why.
Why are vaccines for cats important?
Every year cats across the US, cats are affected by a wide range of preventable diseases. To help protect your cat from becoming ill it is a good idea to keep up with a regular vaccination schedule. This starts with shots for kittens and continues throughout their lives with annual "booster" vaccines.
As the name suggests, booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wane. Booster shots for cats are given on specific schedules. Your vet will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
Though you may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, many states have laws that require cats to have certain vaccines. However, legal requirements aside, your cat's health is the most important reason to have them vaccinated.
Even with the utmost care, an indoor cat can sneak outside when you aren't looking, and even a quick sniff around the backyard could be enough for your feline friend to contract one of the very contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.
If your cat ever visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility, this is another great reason to get them vaccinated and offer them a layer of protection from other cats that may not be vaccinated.
There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our vets strongly recommend that all cats - both indoor cats and outdoor cats - receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could 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 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.
What are lifestyle (non-core) cat vaccines?
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet is in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Lifestyle vaccines 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.
- 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 this infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
When should my kitten get their shots?
Shots for kittens should begin when your feline friend reaches 6 - 8 weeks of age. Following this, your kitty should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks old.
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:
- Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
- Feline Leukemia 2
When should my cat get '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. Usually, these will be done when your cat visits for their annual wellness exam.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats versus outdoor cats it is really a question of which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. Your vet will advise you as to which cat vaccines should be administered to your feline friend.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Until 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 of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
It is important to note that a vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection, however, if your cat does come across one of the infections or viruses they are vaccinated against, they are at a much lower risk of contracting it and if they do catch it are much less likely to become severely ill.
If you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard under careful supervision.
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 minor and short in duration. Normal, minor reactions include slight swelling at the injection site, feeling tired, and lack of appetite. These symptoms should last no more than 24-48 hours.
In rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including:
- Redness or swelling around the injection site that doesn't get better
- Severe lethargy
If you suspect that your kitty may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine call your vet immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.
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.