Veterinarian giving an injection to a cat

Milly gets her vaccine!

What Vaccines Do Cats Need,

How Often Should They Be Given,

and How Do Vaccines Work

  Author, Dorinne Whynott, Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.


The health of our pets can be a massive concern. We always want what is best for them so they can live long, healthy lives with us and we want this for as long as possible. For many of us, this means disease prevention through regular check-ups and vaccines for cats. There are many vaccinations for cats, all of which need to be administered at the right time.

How Vaccines Work To Protect Your Cat

When a cat is vaccinated, a very small amount of infectious agent, (agents are modified to not cause any harm to your cat), gets administered to your cat. The infectious agent in the vaccine formulation stimulates your cat’s immune system so it can generate protective immune response. The vaccine induced immune response, prepares the cat’s immune system for any future exposure to the natural disease causing agent. In case of any exposure in the future, the vaccination induces a generation of the memory cells in your pet’s immune system to immediately neutralize the condition. A properly immunized cat will eliminate the pathogenic disease agents before they can cause a serious disease.

Your kitten’s first vaccines.

At 8 weeks, your new kitten will receive their first Distemper combination vaccine. This generally includes three core vaccinations. Many vets prefer a modified live virus, rather than one with a killed virus, because they tend to work faster with greater efficiency.  Both types of vaccines, modified live and killed, are modifications of the disease to give all the benefits without the disease actually taking hold in our pets. Options and advice may vary between veterinarians.

Most vets will offer the following three cat vaccines usually in one combination vaccine called a Distemper or FVRCP on your pet’s health record:

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR): The vaccine for this disease is another, effective, low risk option. It does a great job at reducing the severity and duration of disease, but some cats may experience the side effect of sneezing. Some vets advocate the use of an intranasal vaccine for faster protection.

Feline Calicivirus/cat flu (C): Like FIE, this illness is common and can easily infect unvaccinated cats. Vaccines can be effective and low risk, with a high impact. However, there is the issue that the threat cannot be completely eradicated. Like human flu, there are many strains and it is difficult to fight them all.

Panleukopenia (P): There are many names for this illness, another being feline infectious enteritis, or FIE. It is caused by the panleukopenia virus and can turn into a fatal gut condition. Unvaccinated cats are seen as being at great risk from this virus because it is so widespread. The good news is that the FIE vaccine is effective and low risk.

The above are all air born diseases.  That means that they are spread through the air.  They can affect inside cats through windows, open doors, fans drawing air inside the home, etc.  Many people believe that their inside cats are not at risk but if there is an affected cat roaming around outside you home, that is simply not true.

The combination Distemper vaccines includes the core vaccinations that all kittens need and they will receive additional boosters during their vaccination schedule.

12 weeks sees the second Distemper combination and maybe a vaccination for Chlamydophila (Pneumonitis). Chlamydophila vaccinations are also provided in later life based upon the prevalence of the disease and lifestyle of the cat. It is spread via a bacteria in close physical contact, causing conjunctivitis. It therefore only really affects multi-cat households and kittens. Owners should also note here that kittens won’t be fully protected until around 10 days after this second vaccination.

16 weeks sees another Distemper combination, a booster for Chlamydophila and new vaccinations for Rabies and Feline Leukemia. FeLV vaccinations are recommended to all kittens because of their susceptibility and the chance they may become outdoor cats.

19 weeks is a booster for FeLV for kittens that continue to be at risk of exposure to this feline leukemia virus.

All vaccines are booster 1 year later. Then every 3 years for Distemper and Rabies.

What about adult cats?

The cat vaccine schedule for kittens is vital to ensure that young cats get everything they need to fight off key feline illnesses. The next concern for cat owners is what to do with adult cats. There are some cat owners and veterinarians that are keen to provide boosters for all illnesses every year, just to be on the safe side, especially if they are outdoor cats.

There are adult booster vaccinations for the Distemper combination, chlamydophila, FeLV and rabies shots. The types, intervals and times will depend on the advice of your vet. It must be noted that the AAFP recommends that FeLV vaccinations are not given to indoor adult cats with no exposure to other cats.

For adult cats with unknown vaccine history that will be indoor cats, they are usually given a Distemper and Rabies initially, then boostered in one year, then every 3 years after that.

Why bother with vaccines for cats in adult life, or even as kittens?

There are some cat owners that are against the idea of vaccinations and medical intervention for diseases that their pets are unlikely to contract. While it is true that many of the diseases prevented by these cat vaccines are rare these days, there is still a risk.

The rarity of illness is due to vigilant vaccinations.

A decline, and the mingling of un-vaccinated animals, could increase this risk significantly. A vaccine is a small price to pay, and small inconvenience, for long-term protection against horrific, potentially fatal illness.

Don’t put your kittens and cats at risk. Keep up to date with your cat vaccine schedule.

The details of these vaccinations for cats can vary depending on age, locations and circumstances. However, it is important that you stick to whatever schedule is recommended by your vet. A clear plan of action will provide all the necessary vaccines for all the right diseases. It is so much better to be safe than sorry.






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About the Owner and Professional Pet Sitting Etc

Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional.  She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History. 

Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It is an AWARD WINNING business, having been awarded the 2015 Best Pet Sitting , 2015 Best Dog Walker, Business of the Year Awards in 1996, 1997, 2006 and 2010.  It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH.  Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook pageGoogle+ page and more.  They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB, A rating with Angie’s List and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.

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