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Do indoor cats need vaccines? Why & When to Give Them Shots

If you have a cat that only stays inside then you may wonder what the need is for preventive care like vaccines. This protection is quite important though. Our Rancho Palos Verdes vets talk about why indoor cats need shots and what the typical kitten vaccination schedule looks like.

The Importance of Cat Vaccines

It is essential to vaccinate your kitty to keep them safe from these preventable conditions. Booster shots given at regular intervals can help keep your cat well-protected.

Your cat gets booster shots to help them stay immune following the vaccines they were given as a kitten because they wear off. Each booster shot/ vaccine for indoor cats has a schedule, at your veterinary appointments, your vet will let you know when it is time for your furry companions' next round of booster shots.

Why does an indoor cat need shots?

Many states have laws that make certain vaccinations mandatory for cats, even if you think your indoor kitty doesn't require them.  As an example, lots of states have a law stating that all cats must be given the rabies vaccine by the time they are 6 months old. After your cat receives their vaccine your vet will provide you with a certificate that states your cat was given the required shots.

The two types of vaccines that may be given to your cat include core vaccines and non-core or lifestyle vaccines.

Veterinarians recommend that all indoor cats should be given core vaccinations to keep them protected from a large range of extremely contagious diseases, so they are safe from illnesses if they escape from your house, go for grooming, or have to stay at a boarding facility, etc.

What are the core vaccines for cats?

Some diseases and illnesses can affect cats regardless of their daily routine or where they live. The shots used to protect against these conditions are referred to as core vaccines. Some of these are:

  • Rabies rabies kills lots of mammals every year, even humans. This vaccine is mandatory for cats in the majority of states.
  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Often called the “distemper” shot, this is a combination vaccine that guards cats against feline viral panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus.
  • Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This ubiquitous virus is highly contagious, is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections, and can infect cats for life. It spreads when food bowls and litter boxes are shared with other cats, through direct contact or by inhalation of sneeze droplets. Sometimes cats will shed this condition where persistent cases of FHV can create eye problems.

What are the lifestyle vaccines for cats?

In some cases, cats will need to be vaccinated based on their lifestyle, such as where your home is located and their lifestyle, like how often they visit social environments. Your veterinarian will let you know which ones your kitty should get. This type of vaccine protects your cat from the following conditions: 

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (FeLV) - These vaccines usually are only recommended for cats that are outdoors often and protect them against viral infections that are contracted from close contact exposure. 
  • Bordetella - A highly contagious bacteria that causes upper respiratory infections. Your vet might suggest this vaccine if you are taking your cat to a boarding kennel or groomer.
  • Chlamydophila felis - This vaccination is often part of the distemper combination vaccine. It protects your cat from Chlamydia which is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. 

Shots For the Health of Kittens

Your kitten should have their first round of shots by the time they are six to eight weeks old. Below is a series of vaccinations your kitten should given in three to four-week intervals (til they are about 16 weeks old). 

Indoor Cat/Kitten Vaccination Schedule

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)

  • Fecal exam for parasites
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Review nutrition and grooming
  • Vaccination: rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, chlamydia

Second visit (10 to 12 weeks)

  • Vaccination: feline leukemia
  • Examination and external check for parasites
  • Booster: rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, chlamydia

Third visit (14 to 16 weeks)

  • Booster: rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, chlamydia
  • Booster: feline leukemia

What booster shots will my cat need?

Adult cats should receive booster shots for their vaccines every year (or once every three years for particular vaccines). Your vet will work with you to determine the shot schedule for your cat based on their needs, lifestyle, and your location.

When will a cat be protected by their vaccinations?

Your kitten will not be considered fully protected until they've received all of their routine vaccines, which occurs once they are around 12 to 16 weeks old. Once the initial vaccinations are given your kitty will be safe from all of the diseases and illnesses the vaccinations cover.

We recommend keeping your kitten in restricted, low-risk areas such as your backyard if you want to let them outside before they have been fully vaccinated against the diseases mentioned above.

What are the typical side effects of vaccines for cats?

While the chances of a reaction after your cat's vaccinations are rare, it is still important to know the signs in case it happens. If a reaction does occur, it tends to be minor and lasts only last a short period. However, in rare situations, some serious reactions could happen such as: 

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

If you think your cat is developing side effects from a vaccine contact your vet immediately! Your veterinarian will assist you in determining if your cat requires special care or a follow-up appointment. 

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.

If your cat is due for their first vaccines or booster shots, please contact our Rancho Palos Verdes vets today.

New Patients Welcome

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

(310) 547-2784