small kitten

The jury may still be out as to whether you own your cat or your feline companion owns you. But whichever is the case, it is your duty and privilege to do all you can to ensure the health and longevity of your kitty. One of the most important ways to accomplish this goal is by seeing that your pet gets all of the vaccinations that are currently recommended by veterinarians.

One Size Does Not Fit All

You already know that there is no other creature in the world like your cat. Therefore, it probably comes as no surprise that vaccinations are not given using a cookie cutter approach. Factors such as age, lifestyle and overall health combine to determine the shots your feline friend should receive.

Commonly Recommended Cat Vaccinations

The American Association of Feline Practitioners has created a list containing the most necessary preventive shots for your cat. When consulting with your own veterinarian, this list and schedule may be adapted to fit your pet’s unique situation. In general, however, important shots for an indoor cat include the following:

  • Panleukopenia (FVRCP or feline distemper) to be administered to a kitten between six and 10 weeks.
  • FeLV (feline leukemia) and a second FVRCP at 11 to 14 weeks.
  • FeLV and FVRCP and a rabies vaccine at 15 to 18 weeks.

One year after the final vaccination in the kitten series, your cat should receive a combination shot that protects against feline distemper, rhinotracheitis (herpes) and calicivirus. If your feline spends any time outdoors without supervision, he or she should receive another feline leukemia vaccination.
As your state law dictates, you may also need to obtain a rabies shot for your pet at this time.

Even for a cat who lives exclusively indoors, the importance of regular checkups cannot be overstated. While your house cat may be less susceptible to diseases than their outdoor counterpart, airborne germs can still enter your home. So can rodents, insects and bats, all of which may carry germs dangerous to your pet. Furthermore, you will need to be current with various types of shots if you ever decide to take your pet to a groomer, boarding facility or on an airplane. Your vet can assist you in setting up a vaccination and booster schedule, contacting you with reminders to ensure that you never fall behind on your pet’s vital health needs.

Non-Core Vaccines

As we mentioned previously, each cat’s situation is unique, and not all preventative shots are recommended for everyone. That being said, the following are the most commonly administered of the so-called non-core or optional vaccines:

  • Feline leukemia. This severe viral disease is spread through bodily fluids such as urine, saliva and milk as well as through feces. It causes cancer and cannot be cured once contracted, which is why vaccinating proactively against it is frequently recommended.
  • Feline bordetellosis. This highly contagious respiratory disease is caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiectasis and leads to inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. The disease can be transmitted via direct or indirect contact with infected cats or dogs and is most severe in kittens and young cats. Animals at particular risk include those that came from shelters, pet stores, etc., who spend time at kennels, are entered into shows or competitions or live in multiple pet homes. This vaccine is usually recommended if another cat in the house is infected.
  • Chlamydial conjunctivitis. This infection is caused by a bacterial organism called Chlamydophila feliz and is transmitted through close contact with an infected cat. Although it generally affects the eyes or upper respiratory tract, it can spread to the lungs, GI tract and genitals if left untreated. The vaccine for this condition is usually only administered if another cat in the house is infected.

Potential Side Effects of Vaccines

Typically, cats display little or no negative side effects after they receive their vaccinations. However, it still makes sense to be on the lookout for the following rare symptoms:

  • Severe lethargy.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fever.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Severe redness or swelling around the injection site.
  • Balance difficulties.
  • Hives.

If you are concerned about any symptoms or changes in your cat’s mood or demeanor after their shot, call your veterinarian immediately to receive recommendations for next steps.

Plan of Action for Your New Kitten

You have just brought an irresistible ball of feline frenzy into your home. Part of the process of settling in with your new housemate should be to schedule an appointment with a well-respected veterinarian. During your initial visit, you will get to know the facility and its staff and have a chance to ask all of your burning questions about becoming the best possible pet parent. You will also talk to the doctor about your kitten’s vaccination and booster schedule so that you know exactly what to expect and budget for over the next few months and years.

When your feline partner is cared for and loved, you can rest assured that you are doing everything possible to promote his or her long and happy life. Taking the time to protect him or her against preventable conditions is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow on your feline companion.