Cat Vaccinations – The Vaccines Your Cat Needs

Just like any pet, cats need vaccines in order to live a disease-free life. If you get your cat the right vaccinations, you can look forward to a happy and healthy cat with a long lifespan. Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t have nine lives. You need to do everything you can to protect them, and it all starts with cat vaccinations.

Regardless if your cat is still small or an adult, there are key vaccines it should receive. These usually depend on their age, healthy, and lifestyle. Of course, you don’t have to determine that – your vet will do it for you. Taking your cat to regular vet checkups a few times per year is vital if you want it to live a long life. Of course, shots play a large role in it, especially when we’re talking about key vaccines such as rabies.

When Should a Cat Get Vaccines?

Pets should start with vaccinations early. The first ones are given when they’re 6-8 weeks old. This process lasts with further shots received until they 16 weeks old. After that, cat vaccinations are boosted once per year.

Adult cats need a shot every year or three, depending on how long the vaccine lasts.

What do Cat Vaccines Contain?

There are several different types of cat vaccines, but they all have a single goal – prepare your kitty’s immune system to fight parasites and diseases. The cat vaccinations may contain:

  • Killed organisms: these vaccines contain killed (inactive) organisms combined with chemicals that will provoke a proper immune response in your kitty’s organism. That should get it prepared for the next round of the fight if there ever is one.
  • Live organisms: modified live vaccines are pretty common. As the name suggests, these cat vaccinations contain a tiny part of an organism that has been modified to trigger a response in your kitty’s immune system. It will replicate for a bit to do that, but won’t spread further.
  • Recombinant vaccines: these vaccines are a new type where parts of an organism such as proteins are incorporated into other organisms and then used to vaccinate a cat.

All these shot types must go through a rigorous safety and efficacy testing before they can be licensed for use. There’s no better or worse cat vaccine – your vet will determine which one your cat needs and administer it.

Core and Non-Core Cat Vaccinations

If we had to divide cat vaccines into groups, it would be core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are essential for all cats and should never be skipped. Non-core vaccines are only given to cats if there’s a genuine risk of exposure to an infection.

These are less common and depend on your cat’s age and lifestyle. You can discuss them with your vet and see if there’s any need for your cat to receive these shots.

Core Vaccines

Feline Herpes and Calicivirus

These cat vaccinations are more commonly known as FHV-1 (feline herpes virus) and FCV (feline calicivirus). Both are always combined and protect your cat from the flu (upper respiratory diseases). Without these shots, your kitten or adult cat will be more exposed to the dangers of the feline flu that can have serious consequences.

Infections in cat population are common and can be severe, so it’s vital for your cat to receive these shots.

Feline Panleukopenia

This virus is often severe and may have fatal consequences. Infection outbreaks among cats are not uncommon, with a high proportion of affected cats dying. The feline panleukopenia cat vaccination is the only way to fight the infection and keep your beloved cat protected.


Rabbies is an essential vaccine that any cat or dog must receive. Vaccination is a very effective prevention method for rabies which has been confirmed to jump from felines to humans. While it is more common in dogs, this is a very serious infection that often has a fatal outcome.

The rabies cat vaccination is often a must in many countries, with the government controlling the vaccination process.

Non-Core Cat Vaccinations

As mentioned, non-core cat vaccines are not essential. However, they’re sometimes needed in case of outbreaks or newly confirmed viral strains. They depend on your cat’s age and lifestyle, and are not essential for most cats.

Chlamydophila Felis

This type of bacteria causes conjunctivitis in felines. It can also cause mild respiratory signs. These can be treated with antibiotics, but cat vaccination can prevent the problem in full. This goes double for infected households with a large number of cats and kittens.

Feline Leukaemia Virus

FeLV is a very dangerous disease for cats that can cause a variety of serious problems. The infection is deadly to felines, and can be controlled by shots. FeLV vaccines are very effective in this regard, especially in younger cats.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

This is another infection that can cause upper respiratory problems in felines. While not as common as FHV-1, it can still be a problem for many cats. Antibiotics are an effective treatment, but cat vaccinations are required for outbreaks.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

The FIV vaccine can stop the different strains of this dangerous virus. While there’s still a debate over how effective these shots are, vets consider this shot essential for protection of exposed cats.

Are There Any Problems Associated with Cat Vaccinations?

Just like with all vaccines, adverse effects in felines are rare. The most common side-effects include lethargy, tenderness at the injection site, no appetite for a day or two. Those adverse effects are pretty mild and nothing compared to the level of protection your cat gets.

In recent years, the most adverse side-effect of cat vaccinations is fibrosarcoma. This is a type of malignant tumor that can develop at the site of vaccination. It’s a pretty rare occurrence that carries a small risk, but if your cat receives any kind of shot, it would be wise to monitor the injection site regularly. If you notice any swelling, you should head to your vet and let them check.