Our Dunnellon, FL veterinary team understands that it can be tempting to skip vaccinations for indoor cats, but even if your kitty stays inside there are some good reasons to have your feline friend vaccinated. Our vets explain...
About Cat Vaccinations
There are a number of highly contagious, serious diseases that threaten the health of vast numbers of cats every year in Floria and across the US. To protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, it is essential to have them vaccinated. It’s equally important to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots throughout their lifetime, even if your furry friend is an indoor cat.
Booster shots work to “boost” your cat’s protection against certain 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 their booster shots.
Why Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat
It's easy to draw the conclusion that your indoor cat doesn't need to be vaccinated but the fact is that indoor cats require many of the same vaccinations recommended to outdoor cats, and by law, all cats must have certain vaccinations in many states.
For example, in most states including Florida cats over the age of 4 months are required to be vaccinated against rabies. Once your kitty has received their vaccination your vet will provide you with a certificate showing that your cat has received the vaccine as required.
Core Vaccines VS Lifestyle Vaccines
There are 2 categories of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.
Our vets strongly recommend that all cats, (even those who are kept indoors on a full-time basis), 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 are away from home.
Core Vaccines for All Cats
All cats should be vaccinated against the following serious, often life-threatening feline diseases:
- Rabies - rabies kills many mammals every year. In Florida all cats are required to receive their rabies shot by the age of 4 months.
- 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 in our feline friends. 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 (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats
Lifestyle 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 based on your cat's exposure risk. 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 are taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel.
- Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis (eye infections). The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
Shots For Kittens
Your kitten should receive their first round of vaccinations when they are about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your furry friend should get a series of shots at three-to-four week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks of age.
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
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.
Until your cat has received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), they will not be fully vaccinated. This means that they will not be fully protected against these diseases. If you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.
Once all of your cat's initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
Potential Vaccine Side Effects
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 don't last long. That said, in rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine call your veterinarian immediately! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.