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

It may be tempting to skip vaccinations for your indoor cat, but cat and kitten vaccines are just as important for our indoor cats as they are for cats who explore the great outdoors. Today, our Little Rock veterinarians explain why indoor cats require vaccines.

Cat Vaccines

Serious diseases spread by cats infect thousands of cats and kittens each year. To prevent your cat from contracting a fatal but treatable condition, it is essential to begin vaccinations as soon as they are a few weeks old and continue with "booster injections" as needed throughout their lives.

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

The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated

You might not think that your indoor cat needs vaccinations, but in many states it is against the law for cats to not have certain vaccinations. For instance, many states mandate the rabies vaccination of cats once they reach the age of six months. After your cat receives its vaccinations, your veterinarian will give you a certificate verifying that it has received all necessary shots.

Another reason to vaccinate your indoor cat is that indoor cats have a habit of sneaking out the door when their owners aren't looking. Your cat could contract one of the highly contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to with just a quick sniff around your backyard.

If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccinations are essential to ensure that your pet's health is protected. There is a risk of spreading viruses wherever other cats have been, so make sure your indoor cat is protected.

'Core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines' are the two types of vaccinations available for pets. Our Little Rock veterinarians strongly advise that all cats, both indoor and outdoor cats, receive core vaccinations to protect them from highly contagious diseases.

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) - This combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, and is commonly referred to as the "distemper" shot.
  • Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - One of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections is this highly contagious and widespread virus. The virus can infect cats for life if they share litter trays or food bowls, inhale sneeze droplets, or come into direct contact. Some people will continue to shed the virus, and FHV infection can cause vision problems.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Cat Vaccines

Various non-core vaccinations may be advantageous for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Which non-core vaccinations your cat needs can be best determined by asking your veterinarian. A healthy lifestyle's recommended vaccinations guard against:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines protect against viral infections spread through close contact. They're usually only recommended for cats who spend a lot of time outside.
  • Bordetella - This bacteria causes highly contagious upper respiratory infections. If you're taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel, your vet may recommend this vaccine.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.

Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule

Shots for kittens - whether your kitty will live indoors or be allowed out to roam -  should be given starting at about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your cat should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach about 16 weeks of age.

The recommended vaccination schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs. outdoor cats, it all comes down to which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. Your veterinarian will tell you which vaccines your cat requires.

When To Get Your Kitten Their Shots

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

Booster Shots for Cats

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.

Fully Vaccinated 

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 protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

If you want to take your kitten outside before he or she is fully vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, keep them in low-risk areas like your own backyard.

Side Effects From Cat Vaccines

The vast majority of cats will have no negative side effects as a result of their vaccinations. If there are any reactions, they are usually minor and short-lived. However, in rare instances, more serious reactions can occur, such as:

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

If you believe that your cat is experiencing side effects from a 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 it time for your cat's shots? Contact our Little Rock vets at Bowman Road Animal Clinic today to book an appointment for your feline friend.

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Bowman Road Animal Clinic is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Little Rock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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