While skipping your indoor cat's vaccinations may be a tempting prospect, cat and kitten vaccinations are just as important for felines that stay at home as they are for those that venture outside. Here, our Groton vets explain why vaccinations for indoor cats are so important.
Serious diseases that are spread between cats can affect a huge number of our feline companions each and every year. To protect your cat from contracting serious but preventable illnesses, it is important to have them vaccinated from the time they are a few weeks old and continue to maintain their 'booster shots' on a routine basis throughout their lives.
As suggested by their name, booster shots 'boost' your cat's defenses against a number of feline diseases after the effects of their initial vaccinations wear off. Booster shots for cats a generally provided on specific schedules that your vet will explain to you.
The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated
While you may not think that your indoor cat requires vaccinations, in many states, every cat must have certain vaccines by law. In many states, all cats over the age of 6 months must have been vaccinated against rabies. After your cat has received their mandatory shots, your vet will provide you with a certificate showing you that your cat has been vaccinated as required.
Another reason why you should have your indoor cat vaccinated is that indoor cats often manage to sneak outside when their owner isn't paying attention, exposing themselves to potentially dangerous infections, viruses or bacteria.
If your indoor cat visits a groomer or spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet's health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of spreading viruses - make sure that your indoor cat is protected.
There are 2 categories of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'. Our Groton 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 Vaccines for Cats
As their name suggests, core vaccinations should be provided to all cats since they are critically important to protect your feline friend against the following common, but quite serious 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 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. 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) Cat Vaccines
Non-core 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. 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. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule
Shots for kittens - whether or not they will be allowed to roam outside or will live indoors - should be provided beginning by the time they are about 6 to 8 weeks old. Following this, your cat should get a series of shots in intervals of a month or so until they are 16 weeks old.
The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. When it comes to the differences between vaccinating indoor cats vs outdoor cats it is really a question of which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. Your vet will advise you as to which vaccines your cat should have.
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 specific vaccine, adult cats should get their booster shots either once each year or once every 3 years. Your vet will tell you when ot bring your adult cat back for their booster shots.
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 on letting your kitten outside before they have had a chance to be fully vaccinated, we advise that you keep them restricted to low-risk areas like your backyard.
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.