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Cat Vaccinations: What to Expect

Find Out What Vaccines Your Cat Will Need

By Jesse Feldman. July 19, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Cat Vaccinations: What to Expect

What, why, and when are the three questions pet parents ask when it comes to vaccinating their kitty. Take a look at this guide on what to expect when it comes to your cat's vaccinations.

Responsible pet parents think preventatively when it comes to their furry friend's health. Cat vaccinations are a big part of keeping your cat healthy and happy for years to come. A few vaccines now can prevent life-threatening and costly issues later on. Your veterinarian should help you determine an individualized plan for vaccines and boosters. This guide will help explain what vaccines are required, recommended, or redundant for your cat. Keep in mind that laws vary from state to state.

Why Vaccinate Your Cats?

Vaccines use antigens to trick the immune system into preparing a response for a disease without actually causing the disease itself. Vaccinating protects your cat by preparing the immune responses to lessen or eliminate the disease. This way, if your cat is ever exposed to the disease, their immune system will recognize the pathogens and respond quicker more efficiently.

What Vaccines Does My Cat Need?

Vaccines are divided into “Core” and “Non Core” groupings by The American Association of Feline Practitioners. Core vaccines are considered necessary. These are the core vaccines:

The first three vaccines are often given as the FVRCP, a three-way vaccine. FVRCP stands for feline viral rhinotrachetis (which is herpes), calici, and panleukopenia.

Many veterinarians recommend the rabies vaccination as a core vaccine, even in areas not typically affected by the disease, because in many states it is required by law. Ask your vet about local booster requirements, but proof of vaccination against rabies is an almost universal requirement in the US.

Non-core vaccines are ones that are not recommended for all cats. Your veterinarian should only recommend a non-core vaccine plan based on your cat’s health and lifestyle. Your vet should be able to clearly explain why your cat is at risk of these diseases before administering these vaccines.

When Should My Cat or Kitten Be Vaccinated?

Any vaccination schedule should take into account your cat’s health, and if you’ve adopted a sick pet, your vet might recommend waiting to begin a vaccination regimen until after the illness is cleared up.
When your kitten is around 6-8 weeks old, your veterinarian will administer vaccinations every 3-4 weeks, until the kitten reaches about 16 weeks old. Boosters after one year are recommended, and then every three years. Your vet may choose to give the Feline Distemper vaccine a little earlier if the kitten will be in a household with other cats.

Adult cats might need to be on an annual, or triennial (every three years), vaccine schedule. Your vet will determine the best plan based on local laws, your cat’s age, and health. For example, if you’re adopting an adult cat who has never been vaccinated before, your vet’s plan will be different than an adult cat who just needs booster updates.

Risks of Vaccination

It is generally agreed that any risks from core vaccinations are greatly outweighed by the benefits to your cat’s short and long-term health. The most common side effects from vaccinations are usually minor and include the following:

  • Fever
  • Swelling or sensitivity at the injection site
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy or sluggishness
  • Vomiting

Don’t be afraid to contact your veterinarian if you’re concerned about a negative reaction after a vaccination. A regular vaccination schedule is a part of a healthy lifestyle for your cat.

Use a vet finder to find the right veterinarian for your pet.
More on Cat Health

How To Prevent Health Problems in Cats
The Best Senior Cat Pet Health
Your Cat Hairball Solution Guide

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Cat Vaccinations at a glance

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  • 1All cats should have 4 core vaccines: Feline Distemper, Feline Calici Virus, Feline Herpes, and Rabies
  • 2Some cats should have additional non-core vaccines as well, depending on their risk for certain diseases
  • 3Vaccines help your cat’s immune system become better able to fight off diseases
  • 4Though there are some side effects and risks, vaccines protect against life-threatening diseases