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Should I get my indoor cat vaccinated? Why & When to Do It

Preventive care can help protect your feline friend against several potentially serious illnesses and diseases. Here, our Picayune veterinarians discuss the importance of vaccinations for cats and why you should vaccinate them even if they stay indoors.

What are vaccinations and how do they protect my cat?

Certain cat-specific diseases can make many cats sick. Getting your kitten vaccinated is crucial for their protection. Booster shots are necessary to ensure the safety of your indoor cat. Regular booster shots are crucial for your kitten's health, even if they will be an indoor cat.

Why is it important to vaccinate an indoor cat?

Many states have laws that require certain vaccinations, even if you believe your indoor cat doesn't need them. In several states, cats over 6 months must be vaccinated against rabies. Your veterinarian will provide you with a vaccination certificate after administering the vaccinations. Remember to keep it in a secure location.

When thinking about your cat's health, it's wise to be cautious, as cats are naturally curious creatures. Many veterinarians recommend core vaccinations for indoor cats to shield them from diseases they might encounter if they ever venture outside. 

What are the different types of cat vaccinations?

There are two basic types of vaccinations available for cats. Core and non-core.

Core Vaccines 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 virus is extremely contagious and can be found everywhere. It is a significant contributor to upper respiratory infections. The virus can be transmitted through various means, such as sharing litter trays or food bowls, inhaling sneeze droplets, or coming into direct contact. Cats can be infected by the virus for their entire lives. The virus can still be shed by some individuals, and eye problems may arise from a persistent FHV infection.

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats

Non-core vaccinations are recommended for some cats based on their lifestyle. Your vet will offer you advice 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 first vaccinations when they're around 6-8 weeks old. After that, keep bringing them back every 3-4 weeks until they're about 16 weeks old for more shots.

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 (10 to 12 weeks)

  • Feline leukemia vaccine
  • Booster vaccine for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia

Third visit (14 to 16 weeks)

  • Booster feline leukemia vaccine
  • Booster vaccine for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
  • Rabies vaccine

When should I bring my cat in for booster vaccinations?

Adult cats need booster shots, which can be either yearly or every three years, depending on the type of vaccine. Your vet will let you know when to schedule these shots for your cat. 

Is my kitten safe after their first shots?

It is important to ensure that your kitten receives several vaccinations to ensure full protection. These vaccinations are typically administered when your kitten is between 12 to 16 weeks old. Your kitty will be protected from the conditions or diseases covered by the vaccines once they have completed their initial vaccinations. Let your kitten outside before they finish their hots, but stick to safer places like your own backyard.

What are the potential side effects of vaccinations?

While cats (and dogs) don't usually react to shots, our Picayune vets would like to share some of the most common ones. These are usually minor and quick to pass. You should keep an eye out for:

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

If you suspect your cat (or dog) is reacting to vaccinations, contact your Picayune vet or nearest emergency animal hospital immediately.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Time to bring your pet in for routine vaccinations? Contact our veterinary team to schedule cat or dog vaccines in Picayune today.

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