Vaccinations are crucial to the overall health and longevity of pet cats. Cat vaccines help the body combat against specific diseases. The medical conditions for which cats should be vaccinated for are highly contagious but are preventable. Some can even be fatal and do not have a cure. Thus, vaccination is the best way to protect your cat from these diseases while keeping them safe and healthy.
What vaccines do cats need yearly?
When determining what vaccinations cats need, veterinarians generally consider important risk factors such as the cat's age, overall health, and lifestyle. The following vaccinations are commonly recommended for cats:
- Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia (FVRCP)
- Feline leukemia (FeLV)
- Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
Feline herpesvirus (FVH) and feline calicivirus (FCV) are two types of viruses that have been implicated in cat flu (influenza). It is a disease of the upper respiratory tract that is highly contagious. The symptoms of cat flu are like humans - sneezing, eye, and nasal discharges, fever, coughing, breathing problems, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Ulcers may develop on the mouth and/or eyes of affected cats. Pneumonia and permanent damage can occur in severe cases that remain untreated. Kittens with their still-developing immune system and senior cats with lower immune status are more vulnerable. Cats that have not been vaccinated against the flu can die when infected. Considering the serious and debilitating effects of cat flu, it is especially important that kittens should be vaccinated against FHV and FCV. Make sure to ask your veterinarian about it.
What vaccines do indoor cats need?
Even if your cats are constantly indoors, it is recommended to get your cats vaccinated for these diseases: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
Cat Vaccination Schedule
Type of Vaccine
6-10 weeks old
11-14 weeks old
Feline leukemia (FeLV)
15 weeks or older
Feline leukemia (booster)
Do older cats need vaccinations?
Adult cats are given booster shots one year after the end of the kitten vaccination series. These include FVRCP and rabies. A booster shot against feline leukemia virus (FeLV) can be given depending on a cat's risk of exposure. This is especially true in cats that spend time outdoors.
Cat vaccinations side effects
Just like any medical procedure, cat vaccinations are not without risks. However, adverse reactions and potential risks are rare and are significantly overshadowed by the benefits that cats can gain from vaccination.
Mild reactions to vaccination
- Soreness at the injection site
- Allergic reactions
More serious potential side effects
- Tumors at the injection site
- Immune disease
You should understand that these serious effects of vaccination are extremely rare and are often linked to pre-existing genetic and health issues of affected cats.
What to expect after cat vaccinations?
Even if the risks of cat vaccinations side effects are low, cat parents should closely monitor cats that have just been vaccinated for any signs of a reaction. Ideally, monitoring should extend for 12-24 hours post-vaccination. Cat parents need to know what to expect after cat vaccinations. You should, however, call your veterinarian if your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms after vaccination.
- Loss of appetite
- Digestive upsets -- vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Severe lethargy or depression
- Swelling and redness around the site of vaccination
- Swelling of the face or paws (hives)
- Lameness or mobility difficulties
Are cat vaccines really necessary?
Yes, they are. For some serious and fatal diseases, vaccination could be the best way to protect your pet from being infected by a specific health issue. Making sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up to date can help ensure that his immunity against certain diseases is strong.
How often do you need to vaccinate your cat?
Your veterinarian will make a vaccination schedule that is tailored to meet your pet's needs for adequate, year-round protection against specific diseases. Be sure to keep a copy of this vaccination schedule and avoid postponing or skipping your pet's vaccination appointments. Aside from having your pet's vaccinations updated, these visits to the vet are perfect opportunities for your kitty to undergo a thorough health check, have his preventatives, and deworming updated. Based on the results of the physical examination, your vet may find it necessary to perform specific tests such as a stool exam, heartworm test, etc.
When your pet has a vaccination appointment coming up, it is a good idea to make a list of questions and/or concerns you wish to discuss with your vet. These concerns may include your pet's diet, activity, behavior, habits, etc. It is also during these visits that early signs of an illness can be detected. Early detection generally means a better prognosis as appropriate medical attention and intervention can be given immediately.
Even if you have an indoor-only cat or your pet appears active and healthy, it is crucial that you should always follow through with your pet's vaccination schedule.
I am not sure if my adult cat has had previous vaccinations. What should I do?
Your adult cat may need to restart his vaccinations from the very beginning as if he were a kitten. The primary course of vaccinations can be started anytime, but to ensure optimum protection, it is recommended that the course should be started immediately. Talk to your vet about it.
When should cats be vaccinated?
Your pet's vaccination schedule will depend to a large extent on his age and lifestyle. Kittens need to undergo a primary course of vaccination, which is a series of vaccinations to help build up their still-developing immune system. After the first round of vaccinations, your veterinarian will customize a long-term vaccination program that will suit your pet's needs.