Why It's Important to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

At Animal Health Services of Cave Creek we realize how tempting it can be to skip your indoor cat's vaccinations, however, even if you don't let your cat outside there are still some reasons why you should have them vaccinated. Today our Cave Creek vets discuss some important reasons for vaccinating your cat including vaccination schedules, side effects, and more.

Why It's Important for Cats to be Vaccinated

A wide range of cats are afflicted by serious Feline-specific diseases every year across the US. In order to help protect your cat from contracting a serious but preventable condition, it’s important to have them vaccinated from the time they are a kitten and keep getting them their 'booster shots' on a regular basis during their lifetime.

As the name explains, booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection from a range of feline diseases after the protection offered from the initial vaccine wears off. Cats are given booster shots on specific schedules. Your veterinarian will inform you when you should bring your cat back for their booster shots.

Why You Should Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

Though you might not believe your indoor cat needs to be vaccinated, by law all cats need to have specific vaccinations in many states. For example, lots of states require all cats over 6 months of age to be vaccinated against rabies. When your cat has been given its shots your vet will give you a certificate that states your cat has been vaccinated as required.

Another reason why you should have your indoor cat vaccinated is that indoor cats can often sneak out the door when their owners aren't looking. Just a simple sniff around your backyard could be enough for your feline companion to contract one of the highly contagious diseases that they are susceptible to.

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 spreading viruses - make sure that your indoor cat is protected.

There are 2 types of vaccinations available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our vets highly recommend all cats - both indoor and outdoor- receive all core vaccinations to keep them safe from highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.

Core Vaccines for Cats

All cats should be provided with core vaccinations, as they are key to protecting them from the common but serious feline conditions listed below:

  • 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. It can spread through sharing 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 (Non-Core) Cat Vaccines

Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats based on the lifestyle they have. Your vet is the best person to inform you which non-core vaccines your cat should get. Lifestyle vaccines can keep your cat safe from:

  • 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 the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.

When Your Kitten Should Get Their Shots

Kittens should start receiving their first shots when they are approximately six to eight weeks old. Following this, your feline friend should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they are about 16 weeks old.

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)

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

Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)

  • Rabies vaccine
  • Second feline leukemia vaccine

When Cats Need 'Booster' Shots

Depending on which vaccines they are getting, adult cats should be given booster shots either once a year or once every three years. Your vet will let you know when you need to bring your adult cat back for booster shots.

Vaccination Schedule for Indoor Cats

The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs 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 vaccines your cat should have.

Your Cat's Protection After They Get Their Shots

Until they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are roughly 12 to 16 weeks old), your cat won't be fully vaccinated. After they have received all of their initial vaccinations, your kitty will be protected from the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

If you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they are fully vaccinated against all the diseases noted above, we suggest keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.

Side Effects Cats Can Get From Vaccines

Most cats won't develop any side effects after getting their shots. If they do have a reaction they are generally minor and short in duration. Although, in some rare situations more serious reactions can arise, such as:

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

If you believe your cat might be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine call your vet immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up appointments 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 indoor kitty due for any of their vaccinations or booster shots?  Contact our Cave Creek vets today to schedule an appointment.