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Should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?

You might think because your cat never goes outside that they don't require vaccinations. However, our Port Jefferson vets still recommend keeping your indoor cat's shots up to date. In this post, we explain why. 

Why are vaccines for cats important?

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. 

Booster shots, as the name implies, "boost" your cat's protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Cats receive booster shots on a regular basis. Your veterinarian will advise you on when to bring your cat back for booster shots.

Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?

Though you may not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations, many states require certain vaccines for cats. Aside from legal requirements, the most important reason to have your cat vaccinated is for their health.

Even with the best of intentions, an indoor cat can sneak outside when you're not looking, and a quick sniff around the backyard could be enough for your feline friend to contract one of the highly contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.

If your cat ever goes to a groomer or stays in a boarding facility, this is another great reason to get them vaccinated and provide them with an extra layer of protection from other cats who aren't.

There are two types of vaccinations available for pets: 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our veterinarians strongly advise that all cats, both indoor and outdoor, receive core vaccinations to protect them from potentially fatal diseases.

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 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?

Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat should receive. Lifestyle vaccines provide protection against the following diseases:

  • 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 should my kitten get their shots?

Kitten vaccinations should begin when your feline friend is 6 to 8 weeks old. Following that, your kitten should receive a series of shots every three to four weeks until they are about 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

When should my 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 adult cat back for booster shots. Usually, these will be done when your cat visits for their annual wellness exam

Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?

The vaccination schedule for all cats is the same. It really comes down to which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle when it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats versus outdoor cats. Your veterinarian will advise you on which cat vaccines to give to your feline companion.

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

Your cat will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all rounds of vaccinations (around 12 to 16 weeks old). After receiving all of their initial vaccinations, your kitten will be immune to the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

It is important to note that a vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection; however, if your cat comes into contact with one of the infections or viruses against which they have been vaccinated, they are at a much lower risk of contracting it and are much less likely to become severely ill if they do.

If you intend to let your kitten out before they have been fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, keep them in low-risk areas such as your own backyard under close supervision.

Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?

The vast majority of cats will have no adverse reactions to their vaccinations. When reactions do occur, they are usually minor and brief. Normal, minor side effects include slight swelling at the injection site, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. These symptoms should only last 24 to 48 hours.

In rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including: 

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site that doesn't get better 
  • 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 kitten or cat due for their vaccinations? Contact Jefferson Animal Hospital today to book an appointment and give your cat the essential preventive vaccines they need.

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