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

Our veterinarians at Exeter discuss cat vaccinations in this blog. They emphasize the importance of vaccinating your indoor cat and provide information on why and when you should do it.

What Are Cat Vaccinations?

Numerous serious Feline-specific diseases afflict many cats annually. To safeguard your kitten from preventable conditions, ensure they receive proper vaccination. Equally crucial is maintaining a regimen of regular booster shots throughout your cat's life, even if you intend for them to be an indoor pet.

These aptly named booster shots fortify your cat's immunity against various feline diseases once the initial vaccine's efficacy diminishes. Different cat vaccinations require booster shots, even for indoor cats, administered on specific schedules. Seek guidance from your veterinarian regarding when to schedule your kitty's booster shots.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Indoor Cat?

Many people may not believe that their indoor cat requires vaccinations, but it is essential to note that in many states, there are legal requirements for certain cat vaccinations. For instance, several states have laws mandating the vaccination of cats over 6 months old against rabies. As a result of these vaccinations, your veterinarian will provide you with a vaccination certificate, which should be securely stored.

When evaluating your cat's health, it is always advisable to exercise caution, as cats are inherently curious creatures. Our veterinarians recommend administering core vaccinations to indoor cats to shield them from potential diseases they might encounter if they venture beyond your home's safety.

Cat Vaccines

There are two basic types of vaccinations available for cats.

Core vaccinations should be given to all cats because they are key for protecting them from the following common but serious feline conditions:


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.

Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1)

This highly contagious, ubiquitous virus is one major cause of upper respiratory infections. Spread through the sharing of litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets, or direct contact. The virus can infect cats for life. Some will continue to shed the virus, and persistent FHV infection can cause eye problems.

Non-core vaccinations are recommended for some cats based on their lifestyle. Your vet will advise on which non-core vaccines your cat should get. These can protect your cat from:

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. Your vet may recommend this vaccine 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 Get Their First Shots?

Take your kitten to the vet for their initial round of vaccinations when they reach approximately six to eight weeks of age. Subsequently, your kitten should receive a series of vaccines at three to four-week intervals until they reach approximately 16 weeks of age.

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)

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

Second visit (12 weeks)

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

Third visit (follow veterinarian's advice)

  • The second feline leukemia vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine

When Will My Cat Require Booster Shots?

Depending on the vaccine, adult cats should receive booster shots annually or every three years. Your vet will inform you about the time when to bring your adult cat in for these booster shots.

Will My Kitten be Protected After Their First Round of Shots?

Your kitten won't achieve full protection or vaccination status until it receives all its vaccinations, typically between 12 to 16 weeks of age. Once your kitty completes its initial vaccination schedule, it will be shielded against the specific conditions or diseases the vaccines cover.

If you intend to allow your kitten outdoor access before it has received full vaccination against all the diseases above, we recommend confining it to low-risk areas, such as your own backyard.

Are There Potential Side Effects of Cat Vaccinations?

The majority of cats won't display any side effects after getting their vaccines. If your kitty does develop a reaction, they are typically short in duration and minor. But, keep in mind these potential negative side effects:

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

If you suspect your cat may be experiencing a reaction or side effect from a vaccine, promptly contact your veterinarian. They can assess whether your feline friend needs any specific or follow-up care.

Is it time for your cat's vaccinations or booster shots? Contact our Exeter vets today to schedule an appointment for your kitty. 

New Patients Welcome

Pacific Crest Companion Animal is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Exeter companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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