Cat Vaccinations: Why Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

Cat Vaccinations: Why Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

In this blog, our Novato vets explain the reasons why it's important to vaccinate your indoor cat and discuss the types of vaccinations they may need and when.

Cat Vaccinations

There are a handful of serious Feline-specific diseases that affect lots of cats every year. It's important to have your kitten vaccinated in order to prevent them from getting a preventable condition. It’s just as critical to regularly follow up your kitten’s first vaccinations with booster shots throughout their lives, even if you plan on them being an indoor cat.

The appropriately named booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection from various feline diseases once the effects from the first vaccines wear away. The booster shots for different vaccines are administered following specific schedules. Your vet will be able to inform you of the times you should be bringing your cat back for their booster shots.

Why Vaccinate Your Indoor Cat

While you may not believe your indoor cat has to be vaccinated, there are laws in most states that make it mandatory for all cats to have specific vaccinations. An example of this is the rabies vaccine, which is often required by law for cats over 6 months of age to have. Once your cat has been given their mandatory vaccination, your veterinarian will give you a vaccination certificate, that you should keep in a safe place.

When taking the health of your cat into consideration, it’s always best to be cautious, because by nature cats can be very curious. Our vets recommend core vaccinations for all indoor cats so they can be protected from diseases they could be exposed to if they happen to escape the safety of your home.

Cat Vaccines

There are two basic types of vaccinations for cats.

Core Vaccinations

Core vaccinations should be given to all cats, as they are essential for protecting them against 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 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

Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet will provide you with advice about which non-core vaccines your cat should have. These offer protection against:

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. This vaccine may be recommended by your vet 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 Kittens Should Get Their First Shots

We recommend bringing your kitten to the vet for their first round of vaccinations when they're between six and eight weeks of age. After this, you should bring your kitten back in three-to-four-week intervals until they are roughly 16 weeks old, so they can receive the rest of their kitten vaccinations.

Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
  • Fecal exam for parasites
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
  • Review nutrition and grooming
Second visit (12 weeks)
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • Examination and external check for parasites
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
  • Rabies vaccine
  • Second feline leukemia vaccine

When Cats Need Their Booster Shots

Depending on the specific vaccine your kitty is getting, your adult cat should receive booster shots either annually or every three years. Your vet will let you know when your adult cat should be brought in for booster shots.

Are kittens Protected After the First Round of Shots?

Until your cat has gotten all of their vaccinations (at approximately 12 to 16 weeks of age), your kitten won't be fully protected. After they have received all of their initial vaccinations, your kitten will be fully vaccinated against the diseases or conditions the vaccines cover.

If you want to let your kitten go outside before they are fully vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we suggest restricting their activities to low-risk areas, such as your private backyard.

 Potential Side Effects of Vaccinations In Cats

The majority of cats won't have any side effects after being given their vaccines. If your feline friend does develop a reaction, they are generally short in duration and minor. But, you should be aware of these potential side effects:

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

If you believe your cat is having a reaction or experiencing side effects to one of their vaccines call your veterinarian immediately. They can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.

Is it time for your kitty to get their routine vaccinations? Contact our veterinary team in Novato today to schedule an appointment.