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Cat Vaccines: When and Why Indoor Cats Should Be Vaccinated

Our Fairfield, NJ veterinarians offer insight and advice on why it's important to vaccinate your indoor cat.

What are cat vaccinations?

Several serious Feline-specific diseases afflict many cats every year. To protect your kitten from contracting a preventable condition, it’s critical to have them vaccinated. It’s equally imperative to follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with regular booster shots during their lifetime, even if you expect Fluffy to be an indoor companion.

After the effects of the initial vaccine wear off, booster shots "boost" your cat's protection against a variety of feline diseases. Vaccine booster shots are given on specific schedules for various vaccines. When you should bring your cat back for more booster shots, your veterinarian can advise you.

Why should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?

Though you may not believe your indoor cat requires vaccinations, many states require cats to have certain vaccinations. A common-law requirement, for example, is that cats over the age of six months be vaccinated against rabies. Your veterinarian will give you a vaccination certificate in exchange for the vaccinations, which you should keep in a safe place.

When it comes to your cat's health, it's always a good idea to be cautious, as cats are naturally curious. Indoor cats should get core vaccinations from our veterinarians to protect them from diseases they might get if they get out of the safety of your home.

Cat Vaccines

There are two basic types of vaccinations for cats.

Core vaccinations

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


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)

One of the most common causes of upper respiratory infections is this highly contagious and widespread virus. The virus can infect cats for life if they share litter trays or food bowls, inhale sneeze droplets, or come into direct contact. Some people will continue to shed the virus, and FHV infection can lead to vision problems.

Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian can advise you on which non-core vaccines your cat needs. These provide defense 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.


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.

When should my kitten receive their first shots?

When your kitten is about six to eight weeks old, take him or her to the veterinarian for their first round of vaccinations. Following that, your kitten should receive a series of vaccines every three to four weeks until they reach the age of about 16 weeks.

Kitten & Indoor Cat 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

When will my kitten need 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 adult cat back for booster shots.

Is my kitten protected after their first round of shots?

Your kitten will not be fully vaccinated until they have received all of their vaccinations (around 12 to 16 weeks old). Your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines once they have received all of their initial vaccinations.

If you want to take your kitten outside before they've been vaccinated against all of the diseases listed above, keep them in low-risk areas, such as your backyard.

What are the potential side effects of cat vaccinations?

The majority of cats will have no adverse reactions to receiving cat vaccines. If there are any reactions, they are usually minor and short-lived. Keep in mind, however, the following potential negative side effects:

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

Call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your cat may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine. They can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.

Is your cat due for their vaccinations or booster shots? Contact our Fairfield, NJ vets today to schedule an appointment!

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All Creatures Great and Small Animal Hospital is now seeing new patients! Our Fairfield, NJ vets are trained to provide care for a wide range of companion animals including cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, rodents, and more. Contact our veterinary clinic today to schedule your pet's first appointment.

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