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

Although your cat may stay indoors, skipping vaccinations can be tempting. However, it's essential to understand that vaccines are just as important for indoor cats as they are for outdoor cats. Our veterinarians at Grenada explain the reasons behind this.

Cat Vaccines

Every year, many cats and kittens get sick from diseases that other cats spread. To keep your cat safe, it's important to get them vaccinated when they are a few weeks old and to keep getting booster shots regularly throughout their life. Booster shots help strengthen their immunity against these diseases. Your vet will tell you when your cat needs to get their booster shots. 

The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated

Your indoor cat may seem healthy and safe from illnesses, but in many states, it's required by law to have certain vaccinations. For example, cats over six months old should get vaccinated against rabies.

Your vet will give you a certificate to show your cat has received the required vaccinations. Even if your cat stays indoors, it's still possible for them to contract contagious diseases by sneaking out or coming into contact with other cats. If your cat goes to a groomer or boarding facility, vaccinations are especially important to keep them healthy. 

Two types of vaccines are available: core vaccines, which all cats should get, and lifestyle vaccines, which are recommended based on your cat's habits. Our veterinarians recommend that all cats, regardless of indoor or outdoor living, get core vaccines to stay protected from diseases.

Core Vaccines for Cats

All cats need core vaccinations to protect them from serious health issues that are common among felines. These vaccinations are essential and should not be skipped:

  • 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

Some cats may need extra vaccinations depending on their lifestyle. Your vet can recommend which ones your cat needs. These additional vaccines can help protect your cat's health by preventing certain illnesses:

  • 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

It's important to vaccinate your kitten, whether they will stay inside or go outside. The first shots should be given at 6-8 weeks, followed by more shots every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Your vet can recommend the best vaccines based on your cat's lifestyle.

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

As a cat owner, you'll need to take your adult cat for booster shots. How often your cat needs these shots depends on the type of vaccine they received. It could be once every year or every three years. Your vet will let you know when it's time to bring your cat back for their booster shots.

Fully Vaccinated 

To keep your cat healthy, it's important to make sure they get all their vaccinations. This means they'll need several rounds of shots before they're fully protected, usually between 12 and 16 weeks old.

Once your kitten has gotten all their shots, they'll be safeguarded against the illnesses the vaccines protect against. But if you can't wait long to take your furry friend outside, keeping them in safe areas like your own yard is best.

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 your cat is experiencing vaccine side effects, 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 Grenada vets at Veterinary Associates today to book an appointment for your feline friend.