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Should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?

Our veterinary team understands that skipping vaccinations for indoor cats may be tempting. However, even if your feline friend never leaves the house, there are still important reasons to vaccinate your cat. In this article, our veterinary team explains why it's important to vaccinate your indoor cat.

The Importance of Vaccinating Indoor Cats

Vaccinations protect cats from a variety of infectious diseases. Even if your cat is indoors, there are still ways they can be exposed to pathogens. For example, viruses and bacteria can be brought into your home on your shoes or clothes or through an open window. Moreover, if your cat ever escapes outside or comes into contact with other animals, they could be at risk.

Reasons to Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

While you may think that your indoor cat can get by without being vaccinated, by law, all cats have to have certain vaccinations, depending on the state in which you live. Many states, for example, require that cats over six be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has had its shots, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate showing that it has been vaccinated to the standards set by law.

Two types of vaccinations are available for pets: 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines.'

Our vets strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home, visit a groomer, or need to stay at a boarding facility while you're away.

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 herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1)—This highly contagious, ubiquitous virus is one major cause of upper respiratory infections. The virus can infect cats for life by spreading through sharing litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets, or direct contact. Some will continue to shed the virus, and persistent FHV infection can lead to eye problems.
  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus & Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Typically known as the “distemper” shot, this combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats

Non-core vaccines are appropriate for cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will be in the best position to recommend what non-core vaccine your cat should have. Some examples of conditions these lifestyle vaccines protect against are:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) vaccines protect against viral infections transmitted via close contact. They are usually recommended only for cats that spend time outdoors.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
  • Bordetella—This bacteria causes highly contagious upper respiratory infections. Your vet may recommend this vaccine if you take your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel.

Getting Your Kitten Their Shots

Your kitten should receive its first round of vaccinations when it is about six to eight weeks old. Following this, your kitty should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until it is approximately 16 weeks old.

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

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

Depending on the specific vaccine, adult cats may need booster shots once a year or every three years. Your vet will inform you when it's time for booster shots.

The Importance of Being Fully Vaccinated

Your kitten will not be fully vaccinated until it has received all its vaccinations (when it is about 12 to 16 weeks old). After all of its 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 of the diseases listed above, our vets highly recommend that you restrict them to low-risk areas like your backyard.

Potential Vaccine Side Effects

The majority of cats will not experience any side effects from their shots. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short-lived. However, in rare cases, more serious reactions can occur, including:

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

If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine, call your veterinarian immediately. Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.

Should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?

Vaccinating your indoor cat is essential for its health and well-being. Following a proper indoor cat vaccination schedule protects your cat against various diseases.

While the risk of side effects exists, they are generally minor compared to the potential consequences of not vaccinating.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best vaccination plan for your feline friend. Keeping up with cat vaccines and shots is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that your beloved pet is safe and healthy.

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 your indoor cat due for its preventive vaccinations? Contact our vets in Orlando to book your appointment.

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