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Cat Vaccination Schedule: A Complete Guide

Cats require vaccinations to help them remain healthy throughout their lives. Here, our Wisconsin Dells vets point out why vaccinations are important for our furry friends and provide a vaccination schedule for cats and kittens.

Getting Your Cat Vaccinated

Having your kitten vaccinated is essential to protect them from a variety of feline-specific diseases. To protect your cat from contracting a serious but preventable disease or health condition, it's critical to start having your four-legged friend vaccinated when they are just a few weeks old. You'll also need to take them to a veterinary clinic on a regular schedule to ensure they receive their 'booster shots' at certain points during their lifetime. 

As the name implies, booster shots "boost" your cat's protection against several feline diseases as the effectiveness of the first vaccine starts to wear off. Your veterinarian will administer different booster shots to your cat based on varying schedules and let you know when your cat should be receiving their booster shots. 

Vaccination Categories for Indoor & Outdoor Cats 

There are two main types of cat vaccinations: core vaccines and lifestyle (non-core) vaccines.

Core Vaccines for Cats

Core vaccinations are recommended for all cats. These vaccinations are considered critical for protecting your feline friend against common and serious feline illnesses and conditions, including:


This fatal disease 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 referred to as the "distemper" shot, this combination vaccine protects your cat against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calcivirus and panleukopenia. 

Feline Herpesvirus Type I (FHV, FHV-1)

A highly contagious, ubiquitous virus, feline herpesvirus type I can be spread through sharing food bowls or litter trays, inhalation of sneeze droplets or direct contact. It is a major contributor to upper respiratory infections in cats and can cause lifelong infection. Some will continue to shed the virus, and persistent HV infection can lead to problems with the eyes.  

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Cat Vaccines

Lifestyle or non-core vaccinations are advisable for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Ask your vet which non-core vaccinations they recommend for your furry companion. Non-core vaccines can help prevent your kitty from contracting:

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline leukemia Virus (FeLV)

These vaccines protect your cat against viral infections that are transmitted via close contact. They are only recommended for cats that spend time outside. 

Chlamydophila Felis

The bacterial infection chlamydia causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for this infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.  

Indoor Cat Vaccination Schedule

Whether your kitten will remain indoors most of the time or be allowed to roam, they should receive their first set of vaccinations starting at about six to eight weeks old. Your kitten should then get a series of shots at three-to-four-week intervals until they reach about 16 weeks of age. 

The recommended vaccine schedule for all cats is the same. In terms of vaccinating indoor cats vs. outdoor cats ask your vet which vaccines are best suited to your cat's lifestyle. 

Schedule for Kitten Shots, Boosters & Health Checks

First Visit (6 to 8 Weeks)
  • Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
  • Review nutrition and grooming
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Fecal exam for parasites
Second Visit (12 Weeks)
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • Examination and external check for parasites 
Third Visit (Follow Veterinarian's Advice)
  • Second feline leukemia vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine 

Booster Shots or Cats

Your vet will recommend bringing your adult cat in for their booster shots either once a year or once every three years, depending on the specific vaccine and your cat's individual needs.

Are Kittens Safe After Their First Round of Shots?

Your kitten won't be fully vaccinated until they have been given all of their injections (when they are about 12-16 weeks of age). After they have been provided with all of their initial vaccinations, your kitten will be protected against the diseases the vaccines cover.

We recommend keeping your furry friend confined to low-risk areas (such as your own backyard) if you want to let them outside before they are fully vaccinated. 

Why Indoor Cats Should be Vaccinated

You may not think your indoor cat needs to be vaccinated, but most states require cats over six months of age to be vaccinated against rabies. When your kitty gets vaccinated, your vet will give you a certificate of vaccination, which you should keep in a safe place. 

When it comes to your cat's health, it's always better to err on the side of caution. Cats can be adventurous, mischievous, and curious creatures. They may venture outdoors despite their owners' best efforts to keep them contained and safe inside. Your kitty may also encounter additional risks if they ever visit a groomer or spend time in boarding facilities (most of which require pets to be vaccinated before allowing them to stay there) where other cats may have been.

Our vets recommend core vaccinations for all indoor cats, so they can be protected from any diseases they may be exposed to in these circumstances. The recommended vaccination schedule for indoor cats is typically the same as all others.

What Are the Potential Side Effects of Pet Vaccinations?

Most cats will not experience any side effects as a result of receiving their shots. If reactions do occur, they are typically minor and short in duration. That said, more serious reactions can occur in rare cases. These side effects may include:

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lameness
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site
  • Hives
  • Avoidance or fear of litter box
  • Strong ammonia odor in urine
  • Fever
  • Severe lethargy 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 

If you suspect that your cat is experiencing side effects due to a vaccine, call us immediately. Your vet can help you determine which specific care or follow-up actions may be required. 

The Cost of Cat Vaccinations

The cost of your cat's vaccinations can vary widely from city to city, state to state, and even from one vet to another in the same area. In some cases, your vet may recommend a specific type of vaccine depending on your cat's specific needs. 

For example, some rabies vaccines are longer lasting and have a lower number of potential side effects. However, they are typically much more expensive. Contact your vet clinic to find out which types of rabies vaccines and other vaccines they use for cats. Your veterinarian can provide you with a cost estimate for your kitty's vaccinations and answer any questions you may have. 

Cat & Dog Vaccinations in Wisconsin Dells

Our vets at Dells Animal Hospital are committed to supporting your pet's health and preventing them from contracting contagious, life-threatening illnesses by administering vaccinations and offering advice on disease and parasite prevention methods. 

While cats and dogs generally both need vaccinations throughout their lifetime, not all pets will need every vaccine. When it comes to learning about pet vaccinations and which shots your feline or canine needs, never hesitate to contact our Wisconsin Dells veterinary clinic for guidance and advice. We'll be happy to address your questions and concerns and book an appointment to vaccinate your pet. 

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.

Is it time for your kitten or cat's vaccinations or booster shots? Contact our Wisconsin Dells vets to book an appointment today.

New Patients Welcome

Dells Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Wisconsin Dells companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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