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Does My Indoor Cat Need Vaccines? Why and when to do it

We know that it can be tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but there are many reasons why you should still have your cat vaccinated even if they stay inside. Our Stockton vets share some reasons why your indoor cat needs their vaccines and when you should have them done.

Cat Vaccinations

Several serious Feline-specific diseases afflict vast numbers of US cats every year. To protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, it’s critical to have them vaccinated. It’s equally imperative to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots throughout their lifetime, even if your kitty is an indoor cat.

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 different vaccines are given on specific schedules. Your veterinarian will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.

Why Your Indoor Cat Should Be Vaccinated

If you have an indoor cat then you may not realize the importance of having them vaccinated as they do not typically go outside. There are, however, many reasons why vaccines are important for the protection of your cat even if they stay indoors. For example, many states require that cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has their shots your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate showing that your cat has been vaccinated as required.

There are two types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.

Our vets strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home, visit a groomer, or need to stay at a boarding facility while you're away.

What are the Core Vaccines for Indoor Cats

It is very important that all cats receive the core vaccinations in order to help them live a long and healthy life.

  • 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 That May be Beneficial to Your Cat

These lifestyle vaccines are not necessary for every cat and depend on the things that your cat does on a regular basis. Your vet is in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Some of the conditions that these lifestyle vaccines provide protection against are:

  • 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 Should Your Kitten Receive Their Shots

the ideal age for kittens to receive their first round of shots is around the age of 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.

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

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

When Should Your Cat Receive Their Booster Shot?

The cat vaccine depends on the vaccine given as some vaccines may be efficient for up to three years and others may only last one year. Your vet will tell you when to bring your adult cat back for booster shots.

When Will Your Cat be Considered Fully Vaccinated?

Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitty will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

If your cat loves to go outside then you should ensure that they stay in an enclosed area outdoors where they will not be in contact with other animals.

What are Some of the Potential Vaccine Side Effects of Cat Vaccines?

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. That said, in rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including: 

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

If your cat is showing any of the symptoms above after receiving vaccinations please contact your Stockton vet immediately for their advice on how to manage the situation.

Is it time for your cat to receive their shots? Contact our Stockton vets for more information on cat vaccines and to book an appointment.

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

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