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Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated? Why & When Do it

Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated? Why & When Do it

Here, our West Chester veterinary team provides you with some insights into the importance of vaccinating your indoor cat and when they should receive them.

What are cat vaccinations?

Numerous serious diseases affect cats across the United States every year. In order to protect your kitten from a preventable condition, it's critical to have them vaccinated even if they aren't outdoor cats. It's just as important that you follow up on their initial vaccinations with routine booster shots throughout their life.

The aptly named booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. There are booster shots for different vaccines given on specific schedules. Your vet can provide advice on when you should bring your cat back for more booster shots.

Why should I get my indoor cat vaccinated?

Although you may think that your indoor cat doesn't require any vaccinations, by law cats must have certain vaccinations in many states across America. One example is a common law that requires cats over the age of 6 months to have a rabies vaccination. In return for the vaccine, your vet will provide you with a certificate of proof that you should always store it in a safe place. 

When considering your cat’s health, it’s always prudent to be cautious, as cats are often curious by nature. Our vets recommend core vaccinations for indoor cats to protect them against diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home.

Cat Vaccines

There are two kinds of basic 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:

Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1)

This ubiquitous and highly contagious virus is one of the major causes of upper respiratory infections. It is spread through sharing litter trays and food bowls, direct contact, sneezing, inhaling breathe droplets and more. Cats will often live with this virus for the rest of their lives and continue to shed the it, infecting other cats.


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.

Non-core vaccinations

These vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will provide advice about which non-core vaccines your cat should have. These offer protection 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?

You should bring your kitten in to see your vet for their first round of vaccinations within the first eight weeks of their life. After this, your kitten should receive a series of vaccines in three-to-four week intervals until they are 16 weeks old.

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)

  • Fecal exam for parasites
  • Review nutrition and grooming
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia

Second visit (12 weeks)

  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • Examination and external check for parasites
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia

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 every three years or year. Your vet will give you the timeline of when to bring your cat in for their booster shots. 

Is my kitten protected after their first round of shots?

Until your cat has gotten all of their vaccinations by the time they are 12 to 16 weeks old), they won't be fully vaccinated. Once all of their initial vaccinations are done, your kitten will be protected against the diseases covered by their core vaccinations.

If you’d like to allow your kitten outdoors before they have been vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas, like your own backyard.

What are the potential side effects of cat vaccinations?

Most cats will not experience any side effects as a result of receiving cat vaccines. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short in duration. However, keep these potential negative side effects in mind:

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

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.

Contact our West Chester Veterinary Medical Center vets for more information about cat vaccinations and what kind of preventative care your indoor cat needs to stay healthy and happy.

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