Cat Vaccines 101

As a vigilant PetParent, we know you’re well aware that your cat needs certain vaccines to remain healthy, and in some cases even legal according to state standards. But the world of pet vaccines is ever-changing, and it can be difficult to know what your kitty needs, versus what is excess for them. Here we’re providing you with a helpful break-down of the various cat vaccines available, and a description about what each vaccine works to prevent. Attend your kitty’s next vet appointment armed with a bit of cat vaccine knowledge!

1. Required Vaccines:

Only one vaccine is required by law for all domestic dogs and cats, this vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian.

  • Rabies vaccine: A rabies vaccine is required by law in all 50 states. Most rabies vaccines are valid for 3 years, although some states still require this vaccine annually. you can see a full list of US State Rabies regulations here. You will be provided with an ID tag and rabies certificate for your cats collar or records at the time of vaccination. Most states required a rabies vaccine to be administered by a licensed veterinarian.

2. Core Vaccines:

In 2013 the American Associate of Feline Practitioners released an update to their vaccine protocol recommendations. Many vaccines went from having a yearly (annual) booster, to having all of the core vaccines being recommended to re-vaccinate at three years (or longer). Be sure to have a discussion with your vet during your cats next appointment to be sure your cat is vaccinated appropriately but not more than necessary. Many veterinarians recommend that adult cats be re-vaccinated every 4-5 years.

  • Feline Panleukopenia (FPV) Vaccine: This vaccine protects your cat against feline distemper. This is available in both vaccine and intranasal form. Kittens should be vaccinated prior to going to a home with new cats, adult cats should be re-vaccinated every 2-3 years per their vets recommendations.
  • Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Vaccine: This vaccine is often available in a combo vaccine with the FPV prevention. This vaccine is highly effective, but does not provide 100% protection from the disease. Again, available as a inject able vaccine or intranasal.
  • Feline Herpesvirus -1 (FHV-1) Vaccine: This is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is often found in cats with a weakened immune system. Often displayed as a ‘kitty cold’, cats can spread this virus to one another through saliva and bodily fluids- luckily it cannot be transferred to humans. 

3. Optional Vaccines: Most of these vaccines are for cats living a particular lifestyle and won’t necessarily be needed by a strictly indoor cat. It’s important to have a discussion with your cats veterinarian to share details about your cats lifestyle to ensure appropriate vaccines are administered. 

  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) Vaccine: This vaccine has been long awaited in the veterinary community. Although it is not 100% effective because some cats who are vaccinated against FeLV might still become infected. Kittens recieve immunity from the colostrum in their mothers milk which wears off between 6-12 weeks of age. Outdoor cats, or those with limited access to the outdoors should be vaccinated.
  • Chlamydophilia felis vaccine: This vaccine provides limited protection against feline pneumonia. This vaccine has been known to cause a reaction in 3% of vaccinated cats.
  • Bordatella Vaccine: A modified, live intranasal vaccine. Bordatella is often only found in kittens, and is easily treated with antibiotics so often vaccination isn’t recommended.
  • Feline Calicivirus (FCV) Vaccine: This is one of the newer vaccines available, introduced in 2007. Full implications of this vaccine are not yet available, so speak with your vet about the needs of this vaccine for your particular cat.

Potential Side Effects of Vaccinations: It should be noted that while most cats exhibit no signs of any negative reactions towards their vaccines, it does happen on occasion. Diligent Pet Parents should watch for the appearance of these symptoms the day of and following receiving vaccines.

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy/sluggish
  • collapse
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • pain/swelling/irritation at the injection site
  • seizures

Call your vet or an emergency vet immediately if you notice any of these signs in your cat. If you’re a multi-pet household, be sure to review our post on Canine Vaccines 101 as well.

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