7 Cat Vaccinations You Need to Know

As cat owners, we would do almost anything to protect our furry feline friends. Sometimes there isn't much you can do to keep them safe, such as when they get into fights or decide to take a risky jump. However, you can always keep your cat safe and protect their health by getting all the appropriate cat vaccinations and by giving them proper feline care.

Cats have four required vaccinations, which often come as one shot. Both indoor and outdoor cats need these shots. The other three vaccines are optional, depending on how much time your pet spends outdoors and the number of diseases in the area. All in all, there are seven total vaccinations that your feline friend might need.

Let's look at each one more in-depth, followed by the typical cat vaccination schedule! After all, keeping them up to date with their vaccines can help prolong your cat's life.

Rabies Vaccine for Cats

The first, and most crucial, shot for cats is the rabies shot. Rabies is a nearly always-fatal disease that is relatively common in wildlife. By getting your cat vaccinated, you can improve your cat's average lifespan.

It causes inflammation of the brain and a host of other neurological problems in all mammals. Like cats, humans can get rabies, so this particular vaccination is vital to ensure that your cat doesn't pass along the disease to you. 

Animals transmit rabies through bites. Very early treatment will thwart the disease. Humans, who know a rabid animal bit them, can go and get rabies shots to prevent the disease from materializing and save their life. However, cats need to rely on these vaccines' protection since they cannot vocalize that they were bit and need medical assistance. These rabies vaccines for cats can be the difference between life and death for both owner and feline!

Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper)

Feline Panleukopenia (FPLV) is a viral disease that, if symptoms show up, is frequently terminal in cats. The FPLV virus is pretty much everywhere, and it is very challenging to protect an unvaccinated pet against FPLV for the duration of their life.

Some cats will get the virus and develop no symptoms. Others will see significantly decreased white blood cells, anorexia, lethargy, diarrhea, and a whole host of other physiological and psychological impairments. Fatal cases often have septic shock and blood clots forming throughout the body. 

Fortunately, the FPLV vaccine prevents this deadly disease in cats, so your pet must receive this cat vaccination as soon as possible!

Feline Calicivirus

Unlike the previous two viruses, feline calicivirus is not unusually deadly. It causes an upper respiratory infection that can range from mild to severe. Most of these infections will pass on their own, but some versions of the virus can be deadly. 

If you ever board your cat or get your cat from the shelter, there's a good chance that he or she has or will have exposure to this virus. This vaccine is a good one to have to help stop the spread of this potentially deadly virus! 

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis

Like the previous one, this disease won't necessarily cause death, but it's one of the standard cat vaccinations because it's worth preventing it. FVR's symptoms tend to be relatively mild, with sneezing, inflamed eyes, and a fever. Most symptoms go away in about a week. After that, the virus lies dormant in the cat's system. Usually, it's dormant forever, but it can flare up at any time for any reason.

Young and old cats are particularly susceptible to this virus's effects and are most likely to have fatal consequences.


Although this disease has a familiar-sounding name, it's not the same one that humans get. This disease spreads as a result of close contact with other cats who have it. Chlamydia primarily affects the membranes surrounding the cat's eyes. The condition causes them to swell, which causes discharge and sniffles.

For the most part, this disease is not fatal. However, young kittens can develop fatal pneumonia from it if the infection spreads to the lungs.

Feline Leukemia

Like feline chlamydia, this disease has a familiar name but is entirely different than leukemia in humans. For starters, this is a virus that cats transmit to each other. Humans cannot get it, and dogs cannot get it, only cats. It causes anemia, lymphoma, or both.

70% of cats that get the virus will resist infection or eliminate it on their own. Of the remaining 30%, 85% of those persistently-infected cats will die within three years. Therefore, it's vital to get the feline leukemia cat vaccination!


Bordetella is a rare disease in that it can spread between dogs and cats since it's just bacteria. The condition is most problematic in kittens with young immune systems, as it can cause fatal pneumonia. For the most part, bordetella causes vomiting, sneezing, coughing, and various other "cold-like" symptoms.

A Typical Cat Vaccination Schedule

Your cat will receive a feline distemper shot at approximately six weeks, as well as a calicivirus shot, and a herpesvirus shot. Those shots will need repeating every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. At eight weeks old, your cat will receive a rabies shot. If your cat needs the other vaccines, they will receive them around the same general timeframe (starting at a few weeks old, with boosters every once in a while). Aside from keeping your cat up-to-date with their vaccines, you should also give them a vet-recommended diet to ensure that they are as healthy as possible.

Your Vet Will Recommend the Appropriate Cat Vaccinations

While knowing what each of these diseases does and the fact that vaccines can prevent them is comforting, your vet will ultimately help you decide on the appropriate vaccinations that your pet will need. They will work with you to explain the cat vaccinations schedule, and the cat vaccinations cost. 

Whether you've just adopted your pet or you have had them for a little while, ask your vet to make sure their shots are up to date on the next checkup! A small shot can help save your cat's life! There are many ways to increase your pet's longevity and regular vaccination is just one of them.

What vaccines do cats need?

The four core vaccines for cats are rabies, feline distemper, herpes, and calicivirus. The other vaccines are typically optional but may be required, depending on where you live and the environment in which your cat will live.

How much are cat vaccinations?

Cat vaccines are not particularly expensive. They typically cost between $25 and $50 per shot. While it might be a little pricey at the kitten-stage because you need to do the shots more frequently, your vet can do these as part of the annual checkup process once they become adults.

How often do cats need vaccines?

As young kittens, cats might need vaccines every 3-4 weeks. However, as they get older, they'll typically only require boosters every three years. Only Bordetella requires an annual booster.

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Written by Leo Roux

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