Cat Vaccinations: Which Ones Are Necessary?

Sometimes it seem as if there’s a battery of vaccinations, especially if your cat is young and you may wonder if they’re all necessary.

Truth is, veterinarians generally divide cat vaccinations into “core” and “noncore” vaccines and the “core” ones are certainly needed as part of your cat’s health protocol. For example, the rabies vaccine is legally required around the country. Which is a good thing because you wouldn’t want your kitty facing a rabid creature -- at all, but certainly not without protection. (It may be surprise many that there is rabies reported in Orange County!)

While there are other “core” vaccinations, such as distemper, whether or not your veterinarian advises non-core vaccinations will depend on several factors.

For example, indoor/outdoor cats or cats who board while you travel are exposed to more “stuff.” That “stuff” includes germs and opportunities for altercations with other animals so it makes sense they should have additional vaccines. One of those vaccines is for Feline Leukemia which I’ll share more about in a moment.

For now, know that the vaccination process starts early.

Kitten Vaccinations

While cute and cuddly kittens imbibe natural antibodies from their mother’s milk while nursing, it’s not long before they’ll benefit from professional help. Your veterinarian will recommend certain shots around 8 weeks of age.

In addition to the rabies vaccine, the additional core shots are: Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis, and Panleukopenia. Luckily you don’t have to spell or pronounce these! These standard shots protect against the aforementioned rabies, upper respiratory infections and distemper.

Keep in mind, if you adopt a new kitten from a shelter, she may already have her initial round of shots and you may only need to return to your veterinarian for boosters. 

As you kitty grows up, most vets recommend adult boosters every 3 years and rabies vaccine booster yearly, though any additional vaccines will vary depending on your cat’s lifestyle. For example, feline leukemia is an important noncore vaccine to consider if you have an indoor/outdoor cat.

Feline Leukemia is highly contagious among cats, and spread through grooming or fighting -- saliva and blood are both transmitters. So if your cat goes outside or has contact with a cat that goes outside, your veterinarian will recommend this vaccine. This is a serious (and common) disease that suppresses your cat’s immune system. After infection cats may do one of four things: 1. clear the infection 2. the virus may hide in the bone marrow and come back into action later in life (most commonly within 1 year) 3. progressively infected and sick often due to immune suppression 4. focal infection in a specific organ. Because a couple of these options include the virus hiding from the blood stream - diagnosis is not always straight forward.  This is why, if your cat is at risk, your veterinarian will recommend this vaccine. It is considered core for the first round of kitten vaccines.


But let’s say your cat doesn’t interact with other animals and never boards. Does he or she still need vaccines? Yes, Indoor Cats Need Vaccinations Too Up-to-date vaccinations are always important when it comes to preventive care. Even if you have an indoor cat who “never” goes out, you never know what could happen. There could be an emergency and she gets outside. Once outside she’d encounter any manner of germs and/or other animals. Especially staying current with the core vaccines will protect your cat’s health throughout her life. There have also been instances when bats get inside - especially those with rabies as they don't act as a normal bat should due to the virus.

According to Douglas Aspros, DVM and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, “Perhaps the greatest success story in animal health is the reduction of infectious diseases resulting from the use of vaccines.”

We also recommend regular wellness exams for cats. Annual check ups for younger kitties and twice a year for older ones (8 and older.)

Do you need to make an appointment for your cat with our veterinarian?


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