How Often Do Cats Need Shots?

Even the most diligent cat owners may not realize the amount of care needed to keep your pet healthy and happy. One important element in your pet’s overall wellbeing is the regular regimen of shots they may need.

Every cat is different, so each will need different vaccines based on their needs. And while no vaccine is 100 percent effective, experts agree that proper vaccination helps all cats by making disease transmission less likely.

Make sure you have regular discussions with your veterinary provider about the vaccines your pet may need and to ensure you remain on the proper schedule for shots.

cat at veterinarian ready to have annual cat vaccines

When do cats need shots?

If you have a kitten, you should begin the vaccination process right away, as they are extremely vulnerable to an array of ailments at this early age. Starting from 6 weeks old, kittens should receive a series of shots over a three- to four-month period. Don’t start right after they are born, however, as kittens do receive key antibodies from drinking their mother’s milk.

How often do cats need shots?

As cats get older, the number of shots they need depend on several factors, including age, health, and lifestyle. Even if your cat lives strictly indoors, there are several vaccinations they should receive to be safe. In addition, most states, including Florida, require cats to be vaccinated against certain diseases.

What are the core vaccinations?

Feline experts agree that there are four major vaccinations that all cats need to receive:

  • Rabies: Required by law in nearly all states, this shot protects your cats (and you!) against the serious viral infection passed most often through bites.
  • Calcivirus: A highly contagious and common virus that can cause upper respiratory infection in cats. This can lead to sneezing, conjunctivitis, gum sores and lameness.
  • Feline herpesvirus: Another extremely contagious virus spread through sharing of litter trays, food bowls and the inhalation of sneeze droplets, this is a major cause of upper respiratory infections.
  • Panleukopenia (feline distemper): A potentially lethal virus that can cause fever, vomiting and in some cases, sudden death. Kittens are particularly at risk.

The final three vaccinations often come in a three-in-one shot called either FVRCP or the distemper shot.

How often do cats need rabies shots?

The efficacy of modern vaccines has increased over the past few decades, so now most experts agree that a standard rabies shot can last for up to three years. But check with your vet to find out their philosophy on rabies shots.

How many shots do cats need?

Aside from the core vaccinations mentioned above, there are several other shots that may come into play for your pet, depending on its specific situation. Some of these include:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv): Vaccines protect against these infections that are transmitted most often through close contact. They are generally recommended for cats who spend time outdoors. Feline Leukemia is not curable, so the priority is prevention.
  • Bordatella: A bacteria that can cause upper respiratory infections. This commonly occurs if you are taking your cat to a kennel or groomer where other cats are present.
  • Chlamydophila felis: An infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. Sometimes the vaccination is included in the distemper shot.

What vaccines do cats need yearly?

There is no set schedule for annual cat vaccines – it is up to the discretion of your veterinarian, who will monitor your pet’s overall health and determine when follow up shots are needed.

What are cat booster shots?

Your vet will help you determine if your cat needs booster shots to previously administered vaccines.

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), low-risk cats (primarily indoor) who received a full vaccination schedule as a kitten can be vaccinated every three years for core vaccines and per vet decision for non-core vaccines. If your cat spends most of its time outside or you have seen changes in your pet’s health, the vet may perform a series of blood tests to measure antibodies.