There's an industry standard as to how often a cat should get vaccinated against various diseases. If you have a strictly indoor cat, you can choose to hold off on some of them with your vet's approval. Your kitty should begin vaccinations as early as 6 weeks of age.
FVRCP: First Set of Shots
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At around 6 to 8 weeks your kitten should have gotten her first set of shots. This set is a combination vaccine that protects your kitty against feline panleukopenia, which is also called feline distemper, viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and (in some locales where it is prevalent) chlamydophilia. The combination vaccine is known as the FVRCP or FVRCCP vaccine. All of these diseases are very dangerous and can be fatal, especially in young kittens. The booster for the FVRCP vaccine should be given every three to four weeks until the kitten is about 16 weeks old. A one-time annual booster is given when the kitten is a year old. After that, the FVRCP is given every three years.
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Feline leukemia, unlike the leukemia people get, is highly contagious. Because feline leukemia can be passed from mother to kitten, and the vaccine is contraindicated in kittens already exposed to feline leukemia, a kitten should be tested at 6 weeks of age. The kitten should be vaccinated at the age of 8 weeks, with a booster about three to four weeks after that. Annual boosters are recommended for cats who go outdoors or are at high risk for coming in contact with a cat with feline leukemia.
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The rabies vaccine should be given at around 12 weeks of age. Most cities, counties and states have ordinances that dictate when the rabies vaccine should begin. Rabies is mandated by law in most places because once an outbreak of rabies is in the community, it is hard to get it under control. While indoor cats are not at as much at risk as outdoor cats, it is possible an infected urban wild animal can enter the house and bite the resident cat. Cats are not as susceptible to rabies as some other mammals, but they can be carriers and pose a risk to people. The rabies vaccine can be given either annually or every three years, depending upon the veterinarian's choice of rabies vaccine products.
The vaccine schedule of FVRCP, feline leukemia and rabies is pretty standard across the veterinary industry. However, in some regions cats are subjected to other diseases against which they can be vaccinated. These include feline infectious peritonitis and chlamydia psittaci, though the chances of a cat's contracting these diseases are low and there is not enough evidence to suggest vaccines against these diseases actually work. Ringworm, bordatella and giardia are all diseases for which a vaccine exists but has not been sufficiently evaluated to ensure its effectiveness. So while these vaccines are available, your veterinarian is not likely to recommend them.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.