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

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

Despite what you may believe, indoor cats do need to be vaccinated. In this post, our Westfield vets express the importance of vaccinating your indoor cat and provide a timeline for when they should be getting their vaccinations.

Vaccines For Indoor Cats

Many cats and kittens are affected every year by contagious and serious diseases. In order to protect your cat from contracting a serious but preventable condition, it’s critical to begin having your young kitty vaccinated from the time they are just a few weeks old and continue with 'booster shots' on a regular basis throughout their life.

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. Cats are given booster shots on specific schedules. Your vet will let you know when you should bring your cat back for their booster shots.

Why It's Important To Keep Your Indoor Cat Vaccinated

You may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, but there are laws in many states that require all cats to have certain vaccinations. For example, many states require all cats over the age of 6 months to 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.

Another important reason to have your indoor cat vaccinated is that indoor cats often manage to sneak outside when their owners aren't looking. Just a quick sniff around your backyard could be enough for your kitty to contract one of the very contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.

If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility, vaccines become very important for protecting your furry friend's health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of spreading viruses - make sure your indoor cat is protected.

There are 2 categories of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our Westfield vets strongly recommend that all cats - both indoor cats and outdoor cats - receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.

Core Cat Vaccinations

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 referred to 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 cats. 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 Cat Vaccines (Non-Core)

Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats based on their specific lifestyle. Your vet is in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines are right for your cat. 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 usually only 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.

The Vaccination Schedule For Indoor Cats

It doesn't matter if your kitty will be an indoor or an outdoor cat, you should start vaccinating them when they are approximately six to eight weeks old. Following this, your cat should get a series of shots at three to four-week intervals, until they are approximately 16 weeks of age.

The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs outdoor cats, it's a question of which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. Your vet will tell you which vaccines your cat should have.

When Kittens Should Get Their Shots

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)

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

Second visit (12 weeks)

  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
  • Examination and external check for parasites

Third visit (follow your vet's advice)

  • Second feline leukemia vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine

Cat Booster Shots

Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should be given their booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will tell you when to bring your adult cat back for booster shots.

When Your Cat is Fully Vaccinated

Until your cat has received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), they 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 you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.

Potential Vaccine Side Effects in Cats

Most cats won't 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:

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

If you think your cat is experiencing side effects from a vaccine, call your vet immediately! Your vet can determine if any special care or follow-up treatments are needed.

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.

Contact our Westfield vets and schedule an appointment if it's time for your indoor cat to get their vaccinations or booster shots.

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