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Cat Vaccination Schedule

Cat Vaccination Schedule

Cat owners tend to not like having to take their cats to the vet for their shots, but it is vital for their health. Today, our Baltimore vets will discuss when and which vaccines your cat needs.

Getting Your Cat Their Shots

There are a number of serious feline diseases that afflict huge numbers of cats across the US every year. To protect your feline friend from contracting a preventable illness, it’s critical to have them vaccinated. It’s equally important to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots throughout their lifetime, even if your cat is an indoor cat.

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. Booster shots for different vaccines are given on specific schedules. Your veterinarian will advise you when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.

Types of Vaccinations for Cats

There are 2 types of vaccinations that are available for pets, 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines'.

Our Baltimore vets strongly recommend that all cats receive core vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious diseases they could be unexpectedly exposed to.

Core Vaccines for All Cats

Core vaccinations should be given to all cats, as they are essential for protecting them against the following common but serious feline illnesses:

  • 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) Vaccines for Cats

Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle, and level of exposure to disease. 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.

The Importance of Shots for Kittens

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

Help to ensure your cat's good health right from the earliest stages by following the kitten vaccination and parasite prevention schedule below.

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 vaccine, adult cats should get booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet can inform you when to bring your adult cat back for booster shots based on which vaccine your cat has been given.

Protection After Vaccinations Have Been Given

Until they have received all of their vaccinations (when they are about 12-to-16 weeks old), your kitten will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial round of vaccines 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

The vast majority of cats will not 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: 

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

If you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a vaccine contact your vet immediately! 

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.

Looking for the best way to protect your cat? Contact our Baltimore vets today to request an appointment to get your cat's vaccinations up-to-date.

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