What exactly are the cat vaccinations?

Cat vaccinations, or any vaccination, is an antibody or a piece of virus or something that stimulates the immune response in the body so that your body can recognize the pathogen when it encounters it, and fight it off.

Dr. Burgess
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

Are vaccinations for my cat necessary?

Yes, vaccinations prevent fatal and zoonotic diseases. Rabies is something that, if your cat were to contract it, it could be fatal to your cat, and if you were to contract it, it could be fatal to you. So that is a reason that that one's necessary. Other vaccines may not be zoonotic, may not be transmissible to humans, but they could still be very dangerous or fatal to your cat.

What cat vaccinations are typically recommended and what are they for?

Rabies vaccines are recommended and usually required for all domestic cats, dogs, and ferrets in the United States. The rabies vaccination starts when they're a kitten and is continued throughout their life. Another vaccine is called feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, and that is your series of upper respiratory infections that cats can get. Because these are viral, they can actually be brought in on fomites on your jacket, on things that you bring in from the outside. So even if your cat's indoor-only, we do recommend protecting them against these viral infections every year.

Finally, we typically vaccinate for feline leukemia virus, which is transmitted by bite wounds from cat to cat. So it's more of an issue for cats that are in catteries, or that go outside. However, the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that all cats get the initial feline leukemia vaccine series and the one-year booster, and then we only booster if they're going to be going outside.

What is the vaccination schedule for kittens, as opposed to adult and senior cats?

So a little kitten like Jack here would get the initial vaccines at eight weeks. We would test to make sure that she's not already carrying the feline leukemia virus prior to giving that vaccine, because they can actually get that from their mama cats too. So we would do feline leukemia and the distemper first at eight weeks, and then booster every four weeks for a total of three doses for the feline distemper, two doses for feline leukemia, and then they only get one one-year rabies at 16 weeks, and then booster that annually.

Are there risks or side effects associated with cat vaccines?

Typically, they're very safe. Most cats get their vaccines, go home, and have no problems. In rare cases, they can have an anaphylactic, which is an allergic reaction to a vaccine that can cause a fever, facial swelling, vomiting, or diarrhea. We ask that, if those things happen, bring those cats right back to the clinic for treatment, and we will consider that they might not be good candidates for vaccines in the future. And that's why it's really important that all animals who are able to be vaccinated are vaccinated, so that occasionally if there's an animal who can not be vaccinated due to an allergic reaction or due to being on chemotherapy, that those animals are protected by the vaccinations of the other animals in the area.

If my cat is going to strictly live indoors, do they still need to be vaccinated?

Yes. So again, rabies vaccination is required by law for all of these guys. And as much as you think they couldn't possibly get exposed to rabies, there have been reports of, for example, bats getting into the home and biting animals and transmitting rabies that way. Bat bites are actually extremely tiny, so you might not even see it. So that's one example I give of, even if you think it's unlikely, your animal could be exposed to rabies and should be vaccinated.

Why is it important to avoid missing a cat vaccination?

So the vaccines rely on immune memory cells. So when you booster the vaccines, you're reminding those cells of what this pathogen looks like and how to respond to it. That means if you miss boosters, you don't have the proper protection, we may need to restart the series to make sure that your cat is properly protected.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Cat Vaccination - FAQs

Dr. Burgess
Countryside Veterinary Clinic

Are all kitten and cat vaccines necessary?

Yes. If we're recommending them, that's because we think they're necessary for your cat. The rabies vaccination is required by law for all of our domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets, and upper respiratory vaccines are necessary to keep your cat healthy. An additional vaccine may be necessary depending on your cat's lifestyle.

Are core cat vaccinations mandatory?

As I said, rabies is required by law. The other vaccinations are not required by the state but may be required for boarding, grooming, coming in for a procedure at the vet clinics, so again, it can depend sometimes on lifestyle. The core vaccinations, however, are recommended for every single pet cat.

What are the non-core vaccinations and why would my cat need them?

The core vaccinations are rabies and then FVRCP, which is Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Those are considered core because your cat could still be exposed to these viruses, even if they are indoor only. So when I say core, every single cat that comes to our practice, it is recommended that they get those vaccines.

An example of a non-core vaccine is the feline Leukemia vaccine, so feline Leukemia is spread from cat to cat by bite wounds from other cats, so typically only cats that go outdoors and interact with other cats, or maybe have another cat in the household who's positive for feline Leukemia would be advised to get that vaccine. All cats are recommended to get it initially and at their one-year visit, but then we only continue if those cats have those risk factors.

If my cat seems healthy, does she still need vaccinations?

Yes. So, rabies vaccines every year to prevent the transmission of rabies in our community, to our pets, and to our humans. The distemper vaccine is given as a baby in the series of three, then at one year, and then every three years. Again, we still want to protect these older cats from these upper respiratory infections. Occasionally you may bring a new cat into your home and these upper respiratory infections can affect your adult cats more severely than younger cats, so we want to keep them up to date as well.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (410) 461-2400, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.