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Cat Vaccination Schedule

Cat Vaccination Schedule

Vaccinations are crucial for domestic cats, regardless of whether they primarily stay indoors. In this article, our veterinarians from San Mateo will cover the significance of routine vaccinations and the recommended schedules for kittens and adult cats.

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. In order 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 and will continue to receive booster shots on a regular basis throughout their lifetime. 

Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?

Even if you consider your indoor cat not in need of vaccinations, it's important to note that many states require specific vaccinations for all cats. For instance, in several states, cats aged 6 months or older must receive a rabies vaccination. Your veterinarian will provide a certification upon completing these vaccinations

Another important reason to have your indoor cat vaccinated is that indoor cats often manage to sneak out the door when their owner isn't looking. Just a quick sniff around your backyard could be enough for your feline friend to contract a contagious virus. 

If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet's health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of illness spreading - so make sure that your indoor cat is protected.

There are two types of vaccines available for pets: "core vaccines" and "lifestyle vaccines." Our veterinarians strongly recommend that all cats, whether indoor or outdoor, receive core vaccinations to safeguard them against highly contagious diseases they may encounter.

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 the 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 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 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?

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 cat in for their booster shot. 

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

Until approximately two weeks after receiving all rounds of their vaccinations, usually between 12 to 16 weeks of age, your kitten will not achieve full vaccination status.

Once all initial vaccinations have been administered, your kitten will gain protection against the diseases or conditions included in the vaccines.

Similar to human vaccination, it's important to note that vaccines do not provide absolute immunity. There is still a chance that your cat may become ill, although the likelihood of a severe illness is reduced compared to being unvaccinated.

If you intend to allow your kitten outdoors prior to complete vaccination against the aforementioned diseases, we suggest confining them to low-risk areas, such as your own backyard, while closely supervising 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 South Hillsdale Animal Hospital today. 

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