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Black and white cat receiving a vaccine at the vet's office

Immunization awareness: Focus on cat vaccines

Although National Vaccination Awareness Month, a campaign designed to raise awareness about the importance of pet immunization, is observed during the month of August, the education is valuable to cat parents any time of the year. However, it isn’t always easy to know what vaccines are needed and when to take your cat to the vet to get them. To help you make sense of basic vaccines and immunization schedules for cats, our blog provides the “purrfect” tips.

Pet vaccines are divided into two basic groups: core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are those recommended by veterinarians for every cat, while non-core vaccine administration depends on your cat’s lifestyle (ex. your cat spends lots of time outdoors).

Core Vaccines for Cats

Rabies. Cats can acquire rabies through the bite of an infected animal. Untreated rabies is 100% fatal in cats, so prevention is essential. The vaccine is administered in a single dose to kittens as young as 8 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two shots, 12 months apart, with boosters recommended every 3 years thereafter.

Feline Distemper. Feline distemper is a highly contagious viral disease (among cats) that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms and even death. The distemper vaccine can be given to kittens as young as 6 weeks, with repeat immunizations every 3 to 4 weeks, until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart. A booster is recommended after 12 months and every 3 years thereafter.

Feline Herpesvirus. Feline herpesvirus can result in a highly contagious respiratory infection called FVR. The herpesvirus vaccine can be given to kittens as young as 6 weeks, with repeat immunizations every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart. A booster is recommended after 12 months and every 3 years thereafter.

Calicivirus. Calicivirus is a viral disease that results in fever, joint pain, mouth ulcers, and anorexia. The calicivirus vaccine can be given to kittens as young as 6 weeks, with repeat immunizations every 3 to 4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Adult cats receive two doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart. A booster is recommended after 12 months and every 3 years thereafter.

Non-Core Vaccines for Cats

Feline Leukemia (FeLV). Feline leukemia is a blood disease transmitted from cat-to-cat contact. A simple blood test can determine negative or positive status. In FeLV-negative cats, the vaccine is typically administered in two doses, the first as early as 8 weeks of age, and the second 3 to 4 weeks later. Adult cats receive two doses, 3 to 4 weeks apart. Boosters are recommended every 2 years for animals at low risk and annually for those at higher risk.

Bordetella. A bacterial illness, Bordetella can be severe in kittens. The vaccine can be administered as early as 4 weeks of age, with adults receiving two doses 1 year apart and boosters annually thereafter.

Editor’s Note: According to veterinarian Dr. Lee Pickett, a cat’s vaccination sites should be monitored for lumps.

We hope the tips you’ve found here will help your cats live longer, happier, healthier lives!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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