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Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated? Why & When

While some may consider skipping vaccinations for their indoor cat, it is crucial to understand that vaccines are equally important for indoor cats as they are for outdoor cats. Our veterinarians in Ketchum elaborate on the reasons why indoor cats need vaccines.

Cat Vaccines

It is important to have your cat vaccinated when it is young and to continue giving it regular booster injections throughout its life. This helps prevent serious diseases that cats can spread.

Once the effects of the initial vaccine wear off, booster shots strengthen your cat's immunity against various feline diseases.

Your vet will give you a schedule for the booster shots, so be sure to follow their advice and take your cat for their shots at the recommended times.

The Importance of Keeping Indoor Cats Vaccinated

Indoor cats may need vaccinations because some states require them by law. For example, in many states, cats older than six months must get the rabies vaccine. After vaccination, the veterinarian will provide a certificate to confirm that your cat complies with the law.

It's also important to vaccinate indoor cats because they may sneak out of the house and get exposed to contagious feline viruses. Additionally, if your indoor cat stays at a boarding facility or with a groomer while you're away, it's crucial to ensure they have the necessary vaccinations to protect their health.

There are two types of pet vaccinations: "core vaccines" and "lifestyle vaccines." Our veterinarians at Ketchum strongly recommend that all cats, whether indoor or outdoor, receive core vaccinations to protect them from highly contagious diseases.

Core Vaccines for Cats

Core vaccinations are essential for protecting all cats against 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, and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - This combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, and is commonly referred to as the "distemper" shot.
  • 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 or sneeze droplets, or come into direct contact. Some people will continue to shed the virus, and FHV infection can cause vision problems.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Cat Vaccines

Some cats, depending on their lifestyle, may benefit from non-core vaccinations. Your veterinarian is the best person to tell you which non-core vaccines your cat needs. Vaccines for a healthy lifestyle protect against:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines protect against viral infections spread through close contact. They're usually only recommended for cats who spend a lot of time outside.
  • Bordetella - This bacteria causes highly contagious upper respiratory infections. If you're taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel, your vet may recommend this vaccine.
  • Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.

Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule

It is important to start giving shots to kittens at around six to eight weeks old, whether they will live indoors or be allowed outside. They should receive a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they are about 16 weeks old.

The recommended vaccination schedule is the same for all cats, but the choice of vaccines depends on your cat's lifestyle, whether they are indoors or outdoors. Your veterinarian will advise you on the specific vaccines your cat needs.

When To Get Your Kitten Their Shots

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 for Cats

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.

Fully Vaccinated 

It's important to note that your cat will not be considered fully vaccinated until it has received all rounds of vaccinations, which are typically given when the cat is between 12 and 16 weeks old. Once your kitten completes all of its initial vaccinations, it should be protected against the diseases and conditions covered by the vaccines. If you're eager to take your kitten outside before it is fully vaccinated, keeping it in low-risk areas, such as your backyard, is best.

Side Effects From Cat Vaccines

The vast majority of cats will have no negative side effects as a result of their vaccinations. If there are any reactions, they are usually minor and short-lived. However, in rare instances, more severe reactions can occur, such as:

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

If you suspect that your cat is experiencing adverse reactions to a vaccine, it's best to contact your veterinarian right away. They can provide guidance on any necessary follow-up or special care.

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.

Are your cat's vaccinations due? You can schedule an appointment for your beloved feline with the veterinarians at Ketchum by contacting us today. 

New Patients Welcome

Sun Valley Animal Center is accepting new patients at our two convenient locations! Our vets are passionate about the health of our Valley's pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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