Although your indoor cat may not go outside, it is crucial not to skip vaccinations. Vaccines are just as essential for indoor cats as they are for those who venture outdoors. Our veterinarians at Hohenwald explain why indoor cats need vaccines.
Each year, thousands of cats and kittens are infected with serious diseases spread by cats. It's vital to start having your cat vaccinated as soon as they're a few weeks old and continue with 'booster injections' regularly throughout their lives to stop them from contracting a deadly but preventable condition.
As the name suggests, booster shots "boost" your cat's protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Booster shots for cats are given on specific schedules. Your vet will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.
The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated
Your indoor cat may not seem like it needs vaccinations, but in many states, it is required by law. For instance, some states require cats over six months old to receive a rabies vaccination. Once your cat has been given the necessary shots, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate that confirms it has been vaccinated properly.
Vaccinating your indoor cat is essential because they may slip out the door unnoticed, exposing them to highly contagious viruses. Even a quick trip around your backyard could be enough to put them at risk.
If your indoor cat is taken to a boarding facility or groomer, it's crucial to keep their vaccinations up to date. Other cats may have been infected with a virus, and there's always a chance of transmission.
Two types of vaccinations are available for pets: "core vaccines" and "lifestyle vaccines." Our veterinarians in Hohenwald strongly recommend that all cats, whether they're indoor or outdoor, receive core vaccinations to protect them from 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 or 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
When it comes to kittens, it's important to begin their vaccination schedule around six to eight weeks old, regardless of whether they will be indoor or outdoor pets. They should receive a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they are about 16 weeks old. Regardless of lifestyle, all cats should follow the same vaccination schedule. However, the specific vaccines your cat needs may vary based on their lifestyle. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on which vaccines are best suited for your cat.
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.
Your cat will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all rounds of vaccinations (around 12 to 16 weeks old). Your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines once all of their initial vaccinations have been completed.
If you want to take your kitten outside before he or she is fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, keep them in low-risk areas like your own backyard.
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 serious reactions can occur, such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you believe that your cat is experiencing side effects from a 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.