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What Shots Do Cats Need? You Should Remember these Vaccines

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Cat parents like you are very much aware of the importance of vaccines for your feline friend. There’s no debate about that. But almost every cat owner has likely asked this familiar question: “What shots do cats need?”

You can understand where cat lovers like you are coming from. After all, the costs of vaccinations (around $60) aren’t exactly cheap.

According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cat owners should consider the following factors in determining the vaccinations for their pets:

  • Risk of exposure to disease causing organism
  • Consequences of infection
  • Life stage of the cat
  • Protective ability of the shot
  • Vaccine reactions that the cat may have experienced before
  • Risks that an infected cat may pose to humans


At the very least, your cat should get the so-called core vaccines. As the name suggests, these are shots considered to be vital to all felines. These vaccinations protect them against the following viruses:

1. Feline calicivirus

This is a common virus that attacks the lungs, nasal passages, and the mouth of felines. It can be transmitted from one unvaccinated cat to another. Cats living in poorly ventilated households are very much prone to it.

2. Feline rhinotracheiti

Along with feline calicivirus, this is one of the two most common viruses responsible for upper respiratory infections in felines. Almost all cats will be exposed to this virus at some point in their life.

Kittens, however, are the most susceptible to getting this virus because of their underdeveloped immune system. They usually get infected five weeks after birth.

Even adult cats with poor immunity caused by a pre-existing condition, as well as pregnant cats, are at high risk of getting infected with this virus.

3. Feline panleukopenia

Also known as feline distemper, this virus is also very contagious. Infection of this virus can lead to life-threatening disease.

The virus attacks the blood cells of the body, which can lead to anemic condition, and make the cat’s body more prone to infections from other bacterial illnesses.

4. Rabies

The Cat with veterinarians

The rabies virus can damage a feline’s central nervous system.

Veterinarians suggest kittens as young as six weeks old get vaccinated against these viruses. There are vaccines that offer all-in-one protection against the following viruses— feline rhinotracheitis, feline calicivirus and feline panleukopenia.

This type of vaccination is usually repeated at 3 week intervals until the cat reaches 16 weeks. It is then repeated a year later.

As for anti-rabies shots, cats can get them as early as their eighth week. This shot is then repeated a year later.

In the US, states have their own laws regarding the administration of rabies shots in cats. Some states require yearly rabies vaccination. Others, like Texas, have a three-year rabies vaccination law.

Non-Core Vaccines

On the other hand, the non-core shots for cats protect them against the following diseases:

  • Feline AIDS
  • Feline leukemia
  • Feline infectious peritonitis
  • Bordetella bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila felis


Should your cat get vaccinated for these diseases? It depends on factors like the breed, age, and health status of your pet.

For example, adult cats are at risk of feline leukemia. Hence, feline leukemia shot are usually administered to mature cats and not kittens.

Other factors that may determine the need for your cat to get vaccinated against these diseases include potential exposure of the feline to another cat who has the disease.

Even your location can be considered—if a cat disease is common in your area, then your cat should get the appropriate shot.

Veterinarians also have mixed views on the need for cats to get feline AIDS vaccine. Some believe that the vaccine is a must for cats at risk of the said disease.

Others, though, contend that the vaccination is too risky. Moreover, it should be noted that not all vaccinated cats can be protected against feline immunodeficiency virus that causes the disease.

Vaccinations against feline infectious peritonitis, Chlamydophila felis, and Bordetella bronchiseptica are not commonly administered to most cats.

However, this doesn’t mean that your cat should not get vaccinated against these diseases. Again, it would depend on the various factors mentioned earlier.

Your vet should be able to tell which of these non-core shots your cat should get.

Good vets will tailor a vaccination program that suits a cat’s needs.

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Getting your cat vaccinated is an important part of your cat’s health care routine. It can increase her immunity to highly communicable diseases.

While shots can be costly, think of it this way– vaccines can give you the peace of mind that your cat can be protected against certain ailments.

At the very least, you should get the core vaccinations for your cat. As for the non-core shots, you can talk to your vet so that you can get expert advice.

2 thoughts on “What Shots Do Cats Need? You Should Remember these Vaccines”

  1. It’s good to know what vaccines my cat will need. I’ve only heard of rabies before, so I’m glad I read this. The first one would be vital because I know our house isn’t super well ventilated!


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