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Cat Vaccinations: How Often Do Cats Need to be Vaccinated?

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Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

Getting vaccinations can be a scary process for both cats and cat owners. There are many vaccinations available for your cat as well as potential side effects to consider. At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic we want you to feel confident in your decision to get your pet vaccinated. That’s why we’ve created a go-to guide for vaccines, so your next visit to the veterinarian is as pain-free as possible!

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, we ensure that everyone who comes through our doors is treated with the respect and gentleness they deserve. In addition, we want all of our patients to be knowledgeable about the services their pets receive while in our care. One important issue we’re passionate about teaching our clients about is cat vaccines. It can be overwhelming to know what vaccines your cat needs, and how often she should be vaccinated. Generally, once your kitten has gotten all of her vaccines, cats have annual vaccine shots. In unique cases where your cat isn’t exposed to certain diseases, we’ll recommend three-year boosters.

How Vaccines Work for Cats

Kittens receives antibodies from their mother’s milk until they are six weeks old. Vaccines stimulate your cat’s immune system, acting as a weaker version of the real virus, in order to build up resistances to the virus in the future. After a cat is vaccinated, their immune system will now have the ability to defend itself against the virus when exposed to it. 

Since animals are more intimately exposed to bacteria– more so than humans– they are more susceptible to picking up diseases. However, we have a choice to be vaccinated, cats do not. Therefore, it’s important to know what types of vaccines your cat can have. 

Types of Vaccines for Cats

First of all, there are two types of vaccines: 

  • Core vaccinations — Always recommended. They help fight off common or deadly diseases
  • Non-core vaccinations. — Not always recommended. They help fight off various diseases your cat may come in contact with depending on environmental factors.

Core Vaccines for Cats

Core vaccines help prevent against common diseases that are either widespread or fatal, thus they are always recommended.

Diseases core vaccines protect against include:

  • Rabies
  • FVRCP:
    • Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus (FVR)
    • Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
    • Feline Panleukopenia (FPV)

Not only is the rabies vaccine recommended, but it could be mandated by your state’s legislation. In Colorado, for example, it is state law to have your kitten vaccinated. Hence, core vaccinations are not only about your cat’s health, but the public’s as well.

The FVRCP is three vaccines in one, administered in a single syringe. It effectively treats the Rhinotracheitis Virus, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia.

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats

Non-core vaccines (or also known as lifestyle vaccines) are not always recommended. They are only given to cats at risk of exposure to various diseases. Owners who let their cats explore the outdoors need to consider these vaccines.

Diseases non-core vaccines protect against include:

  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) 
  • Chlamydophila felis 
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica 

FeLV is quite common so it is highly recommended in kittens, however, it is optional for adult cats. Chlamydophila felis and Bordetella are given on a case-by-case basis.

Side Effects of Vaccines for Cats

The benefits of getting your cat vaccinated are far outweighed by the risks involved, however, there are some to be aware of. For a few days, your cats may exhibit symptoms such as lethargy, fever, or loss of appetite. However, if the symptoms persist for more than a week, call your local vet immediately, as medication can effectively resolve these issues. Give us a call at Ponderosa Veterinarian Clinic if your pet is experiencing prolonged symptoms. We would love to talk with you!

Kitten & Cat Vaccine Schedule

Kittens go through an initial series of shots from 6 to 16 weeks old. We give your cat three to four weeks of rest until their next vaccination.

Vaccinations boosters such as the FVRCP, Feline Distemper (FeLV), and Rabies are given one year after the kitten’s first round of vaccines. If your cat does not have a high exposure risk or is relatively healthy, three-year boosters may be given, however annual vaccinations are typical.

Ultimately because there is no size-fits-all protocol for cat vaccinations, so we recommend you consult your doctor with your specific pet in mind.

Is Your Cat Ready for Vaccinations? 

Vaccinating your cat is sometimes overwhelming. You or your cat may be nervous about your next doctor’s visit. However, at Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, we ensure that every patient has a thorough understanding of the vaccination process so they can make decisions with confidence. We believe that it is your right to know, and it is our duty to teach you about animal health and safety. Please feel free to contact us today to set up your next vaccination appointment! 

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