Cats don’t actually have nine lives, so you need to do what you can to protect them. The key? The right vaccinations. Shots protect your cat from diseases caused by viruses and bacteria. They can also strengthen her immune system.

Whether you have a kitten or an adult cat, your vet can help you figure out which vaccines are best and how often your kitty should get shots. It usually depends on her age, overall health, and lifestyle. The vet will also think about how long vaccines are supposed to last and how likely your cat might be to come into contact with a certain disease. Also, many local and state governments have laws about vaccines like rabies.

When to give vaccines. Kittens should start getting vaccinations when they are 6 to 8 weeks old. The shots come in a series every 3 to 4 weeks. Adult cats need shots less often, usually every year or every 3 years, depending on how long a vaccine is designed to last.

Which shots they need. Some vaccines are recommended for all cats. They protect against:

  • Rabies
  • Panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper)
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis

The feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia vaccinations often come in a combination shot (FVRCP), which is sometimes called the “distemper shot.”

Your cat may need extra shots depending on how much time she spends outside, how often she’s around other cats, and the diseases that are common in your area. They include:

  • Chlamydia: A vaccine for this bacteria is often part of the FVRCP shot.
  • Feline leukemia: This serious viral infection spreads through runny noses and saliva of cats who have it. The vaccine is recommended for cats who spend time outside.
  • Bordetella: Cats who go to the groomer or stay at a kennel should get vaccinated for this infection that spreads quickly in spaces where there are lots of animals. The shot won’t prevent the disease, but it will keep your kitty from getting very sick from it.

If your cat stays inside all of the time, you might think she’s automatically protected from these kinds of diseases. But she could still catch airborne germs that might come in through a window or door. And even the most docile kitties sometimes make a run for it. If your cat gets outside, you want to make sure she’s protected. Indoor cats may also pick up bacteria and viruses when they stay at a kennel and if you bring a new cat home.

Keep in mind that vaccines don’t offer total immunity from diseases. To help your pet stay healthy, limit her contact with infected animals and to environments where diseases may be more common.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

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