The 7 Most Common Cat Vaccines
Cats, like humans, can be prone to infectious diseases. However, a preventive approach with a series of cat vaccinations can help avoid them.
When cats aren't vaccinated, they're at risk of serious life-threatening diseases, which can also pose a health risk to other pets and you.
What vaccines do cats need? This guide reviews the most common cat vaccines, grouping them according to their importance and significance in protecting cats from infections and illness.
Core Cat Vaccines
First, let's look at core cat vaccines. These are required cat vaccinations for kittens who have never been vaccinated as well as adult cats. They are vital for all cats as they target diseases such as:
- Feline Calicivirus
- Feline Panleukopenia
- Upper respiratory infections / Cat Herpes
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FLV)
Here is a list of cat vaccines classified as core vaccines:
1. Rabies vaccine
Rabies vaccination is an extremely important vaccination for cats, as they are susceptible to rabies infection. Rabies is fatal and if your cat gets infected with the rabies virus the situation becomes a health risk for humans.
If an unvaccinated cat is bitten by another animal that is suspected to have rabies or if the unvaccinated cat bites a human this could lead to long quarantine times and possibly euthanasia (especially if symptoms develop).
Rabies vaccine requirements can vary depending on state and local laws, and a cat may be medically exempt only if a veterinarian provides proper documentation.
Common vaccination schedule for cat rabies vaccines:
- First shot: 14–16 weeks of age
- Booster shot: One year after the first shot
- Follow-up shot: Annually or every three years, depending on the vaccine or applicable state laws
2. FVRCP vaccine
FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia) is a primary vaccination that combines three vaccines for cats into one. It vaccinates cats against the following:
- Feline Panleukopenia - also called feline parvovirus or feline distemper (FPV)
- Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
- Feline Rhinotracheitis virus, also called herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1)
This vaccination is vital for cats, as FPV has a high mortality rate in young kittens.
Vaccination schedule for FVRCP vaccines:
- Core shot 1: 6–8 weeks of age
- Core shot 2: 10–12 weeks of age
- Core shot 3: 14–16 weeks
- Booster shot: One year after the kitten shots
- Follow-up shot: Every three years for all cats
3. FeLV vaccine (Kittens under 1 year old)
The FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) vaccine is a core vaccine for young and indoor-outdoor cats that protects cats against the feline leukemia virus, which is transmitted by close contact and bodily fluids from an infected cat. This core vaccine should be part of your kitten immunization schedule.
Vaccination schedule for FeLV vaccines:
- Core shot 1: 6–8 or 10-12 weeks of age
- Core shot 2: 10–12 or 14-16 weeks of age
- Follow-up shot: The optional non-core FeLV vaccine described below for your adult cat
Non-Core Cat Vaccines
These are optional feline vaccines given based on individual factors like your location and your pet's lifestyle. Your veterinarian is in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines to administer.
4. Chlamydophila Felis vaccine
Chlamydophila Felis is a bacteria that causes conjunctivitis (eye inflammation) and respiratory problems in infected cats. It's an intranasal vaccine and is only recommended in high risk multi-cat environments.
5. Bordetella vaccine
Bordetella is a bacterial infection that can cause your cat to develop an upper respiratory infection. This vaccine is always administered intranasally (through the nostrils) and, like the Chlamydophila vaccine, is only recommended for high risk households or shelters with multiple cats.
6. FeLV vaccine (for Adult Cats)
This vaccine protects against FeLV just like its core counterpart. While not considered essential, it is one of the annual cat vaccines commonly administered to any adult cat that spends time outdoors.
Keep reading: Should You Let Your Cat Roam Outside?
7. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) vaccine
Although FIP vaccines have been created in the past, their efficacy has been a subject of debate within the veterinary community due to the complicated nature of the disease and lack of ability to provide adequate long term immunity.
How are Cat Vaccines Administered
Vaccines are administered to cats either as injections or nasal drops. The sites for injectable vaccines in cats are below the elbow of the front right leg or below the knee joint of the right or left leg. The tail is also a possible injection site.
Remember, your cat may experience vaccine side effects, such as
- Pruritus (general itchiness)
- Low fever
- Facial swelling
- Swelling at the injection site
- Risk of injection site sarcomas with certain types of vaccines
Be sure to contact your veterinarian if you notice your cat is experiencing any side effects after vaccination.
Some common cat vaccines are non-negotiable for protecting your cat against feline diseases and raising healthy pets. Your cat vaccination schedule should be at the top of your mind to keep your cat's immune system disease-resistant.
Get started with protecting your cat even from the comforts of your home by booking a wellness exam to vaccinate your cat.
Stress-Free Vaccinations for Your Furry Friend
Get your pet vaccinated in their favorite spot - at home. No need to hassle with carriers or car rides.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many series of shots do cats need?
The kitten immunization schedule typically requires 1–3 shots, then a booster shot one year later, after which the cat starts annual vet check-ups for follow-up shots.
Do indoor cats need vaccines?
Yes, your indoor cat needs vaccination, as diseases don't always require direct contact to be transmitted.
What happens if I don't vaccinate my indoor cat?
An unvaccinated indoor cat is at risk of contracting feline distemper, feline viral rhinotracheitis,, feline calicivirus, and any other infectious disease.
How many years do cats need vaccines?
Adult cats who completed the primary course of cat vaccines as kittens and were re-vaccinated after a year should receive vaccines every one to three years throughout their lives. However, antibody titers can be done, and if the levels are high enough, they may not need further vaccines after the first few years but regular titer checks should be performed to ensure continued immunity.