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Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated? Why & When to Do It

Some cat owners don't think it's necessary to vaccinate their indoor cats. In this article, our Charlotte vets share why even indoor cats should be vaccinated.

Importance of Cat Vaccines

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 Your Indoor Cat Should Be Vaccinated

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 catch 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. 

2 types of vaccinations 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.

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.

Lifestyle Vaccines for Cats

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 Your Kitten Should Be Vaccinated

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:

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

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

Possible Side Effects After Vaccination

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: 

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Redness
  • Swelling around the injection site 
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Fever

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.

Is your cat or kitten due for their vaccinations? Contact our Charlotte vets to book an appointment.

New Patients Welcome

Quail Hollow Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Charlotte companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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