It may seem like there's no need to vaccinate your cat if they stay indoors all the time. However, it's important to understand that this is not the case. Our veterinarians in Weldon Spring explain why getting your indoor cat vaccinated is crucial.

About Cat Vaccinations

To keep your kitty safe from preventable diseases, it is essential to vaccinate them. Additionally, it's crucial to keep up with your cat's booster shots following their first kitten vaccinations to maintain their protection.

These booster shots are essential as they help your cat stay immune to the diseases they were vaccinated against as kittens, as the immunity wears off over time.

Each vaccine has a schedule for indoor cats, and your vet will inform you during appointments when it's time for your pet's next booster shot round.

Why Your Indoor Cat Needs to be Vaccinated

It's important to note that many states have laws mandating certain vaccinations for cats, even if they are indoor pets. For example, most states require cats to receive the rabies vaccine before they turn 6 months old. Once your cat gets vaccinated, your vet will give you a certificate stating that your cat has received the necessary shots.

Two types of vaccines are available for cats: core and lifestyle. Veterinarians recommend that all indoor cats receive core vaccinations to protect them from a wide range of highly contagious diseases. This ensures that they remain safe from illnesses if they happen to escape from your home, require grooming services, or stay at a boarding facility.

Core Vaccines for Cats

Your cat should be given core vaccinations to keep them protected from the following list of common, severe feline illnesses:

  • Rabies rabies kills lots of mammals every year, even humans. This vaccine is mandatory for cats in the majority of states.
  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus & Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Often called the "distemper" shot, this is a combination vaccine that guards cats against feline viral panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus.
  • Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This ubiquitous virus is highly contagious, is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections, and can infect cats for life. It spreads when food bowls and litter boxes are shared with other cats, through direct contact or inhalation of sneeze droplets. Sometimes, cats will shed this condition where persistent cases of FHV can create eye problems.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats

Depending on your cat's lifestyle, some non-core vaccinations may be necessary. Your veterinarian will advise you which ones are necessary to protect your cat from certain conditions.

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (FeLV) - These vaccines are usually only recommended for cats that are outdoors often and protect them against viral infections that are contracted from close contact exposure. 
  • Bordetella - A highly contagious bacteria that causes upper respiratory infections. Your vet might suggest this vaccine if you are taking your cat to a boarding kennel or groomer.
  • Chlamydophila felis - This vaccination is often part of the distemper combination vaccine. It protects your cat from Chlamydia, which is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. 

Getting Your Kitten Vaccinated

Taking your kitten for their initial round of vaccinations is recommended when they are between six to eight weeks old. Your kitten should receive a series of vaccinations spaced three to four weeks apart until they are about 16 weeks old. Here is a list of the recommended vaccinations.

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)

  • Fecal exam for parasites
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Review nutrition and grooming
  • Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia

Second visit (12 weeks)

  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • Examination and external check for parasites
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia

Third visit (follow veterinarian's advice)

  • The second feline leukemia vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine

Booster Shots

An adult cat should receive booster shots for their vaccines every year (or once every three years for particular vaccines). Your veterinarian will confirm the appropriate vaccination/booster schedule for your cat.

Vaccine Protection

It's important to note that your kitten won't be fully vaccinated until they are around 12 to 16 weeks old. During this time, they should receive all of their vaccinations. Once they have received all of the initial vaccinations, they will be protected from the diseases and illnesses that the vaccinations cover.

Until your kitten receives all their vaccinations, keeping them in restricted and low-risk areas is best. For instance, if you want to let them go outside, it's best to restrict them to your backyard. This will help keep them safe from the diseases mentioned above.

Potential Vaccine Side Effects

A large majority of cats won't experience side effects from their shots. If a reaction does occur, it tends to be minor and lasts only for a short period of time. However, in rare situations, some serious reactions could happen, such as: 

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

If you think your cat is developing side effects from a vaccine, contact your vet immediately! Your veterinarian will assist you in determining if your cat requires special care or a follow-up appointment. 

To book a vaccination for your cat or determine their next booster, contact our Weldon Spring vets today.