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Cat Vaccination Schedule

Vaccinations are essential for our feline friends - even if they're indoor cats. Today, our Los Angeles County vets discuss the importance of regular vaccines along with kitten and cat vaccination schedules.

Why are vaccines for cats important?

Several diseases and disorders specifically affect cats in the US each year. To protect your cat from these preventable diseases, starting a regular vaccination schedule during kittenhood is important. When your cat is young, it will receive core and lifestyle vaccines as your vet recommends.

Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?

Though you may not think your indoor cat requires vaccinations, by law, all cats must have certain vaccinations in many states. For example, many states require that cats over the age of six months be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has its shots, your veterinarian will provide a certificate showing it has been vaccinated as required.

Another essential reason to vaccinate your indoor cat is that they often sneak out the door when their owner isn't looking. A quick sniff around your backyard could be enough for your feline friend to contract a contagious virus. 

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 illness spreading - so make sure that your indoor cat is protected.

Two types of vaccinations are available for pets: 'core vaccines and 'lifestyle vaccines.' Our vets strongly recommend that all indoor and outdoor cats—receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be exposed to.

What are 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 Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus & 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. It can be spread through sharing 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.

What are 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 transmitted via close contact. They are usually recommended only for cats that spend time outdoors.
  • 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.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for this infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.

When should my kitten get their shots?

Kittens should start receiving vaccinations when they are about six to eight weeks old. After the initial shot, they should get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they are around sixteen weeks old. A standard vaccination schedule may look like this:

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

6 to 8 weeks

  • Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia

10 to 12 weeks 

  • Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
  • Feline Leukemia

14 to 16 weeks 

  • Rabies
  • Booster: Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Panleukopenia, Chlamydia
  • Feline Leukemia 2

When should my adult cat get booster shots?

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

Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?

Until about two weeks after they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitty will not be fully vaccinated. After all their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

Much like human vaccination, it is important to remember that vaccines do not guarantee 100% protection. It is still possible for your cat to get sick, but there's a good chance that they will fare better than if they had not been vaccinated. 

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 under careful supervision. 

Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?

The vast majority of cats will not experience any side effects from getting their shots. If reactions occur, they are usually mild and may include tiredness, temporary lack of appetite, and minor swelling at the injection site. In rare cases, more serious reactions can occur. If your cat experiences any of the following after being vaccinated, you should contact your vet or bring them to the nearest pet emergency hospital to be examined:

  • Lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite that persists for more than 24 hours
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site that worsens or doesn't go away
  • Hives
  • Severe lethargy
  • Fever

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 or kitten's vaccinations? Book an appointment at Animal Hospital of Redondo Beach today. 

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Animal Hospital of Redondo Beach is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Los Angeles County companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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