Cat Vaccine Checklist: Dos and Don’ts of Protecting Your Kitty

When you get a new kitten, providing the best possible care is undoubtedly your top priority. Among the recommended healthcare steps you should take, vaccination is certainly one of the crucial aspects of your pet’s well-being. You should follow a pre-determined cat vaccine checklist to ensure you’ve got all the bases covered.

Cat Vaccine Checklist

There’s a specific distinction to be made between core and non-core vaccinations. The former refers to all the jabs that are deemed necessary and sometimes even required by law. In contrast, the others fall into the recommended category, based on your pet’s current status and living conditions.

Age Core Vaccines
6 weeks FPV + FHV-1 + FCV
4–6 weeks FHV-1 + FCV
8 weeks FeLV
Annual Rabies
Application Non-Core Vaccines
Follow the label instructions Feline Chlamydia
FeLV (non-core for cats over the age of 1)

While there are some general guidelines as to which shots are necessary for feline health, your vet should offer a tailored cat vaccine schedule for your specific breed. After all, not all felines have the same medical history or immune response, so having a custom plan with specific dates is your best bet for fending off known illnesses.

What Vaccines Do Cats Need

Overall, the cat vaccination requirements are fewer than those for dogs, which means your pet needs fewer jabs to be safe. But even so, knowing what each one is for can give you a clear perspective on your little companion’s overall health and well-being.

Core Vaccines

According to the AAHA/AAFP guidelines[1], these are the required cat vaccinations by law in most areas. They’re an integral part of boosting the feline immune system and providing the blueprint to fight off some major threats.


This contagious disease is normally transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. It attacks the central nervous system and causes a number of disruptions. The early symptoms during the incubation stage might be hard to spot, but they become more evident around 2-4 days after exposure.

They tend to progress quickly afterward and may include general weakness, difficulty breathing, aggression, disorientation, excessive saliva production, seizures, and even paralysis. Since there is no direct form of treatment, getting the Rabies vaccines are the only way to prevent more serious consequences.

FVRCP Vaccine

Next on the list of immunizations is the FVRCP vaccine for cats, which is essentially a three-in-one shot for Feline Calicivirus (FCV), Feline Panleukopenia (FPV), and the Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus, which is also known as herpes (FVR/FHV-1). All of these are infectious diseases that may do some serious damage.

Now, FPV is commonly known as feline distemper or parvovirus, which is a condition that usually starts with seemingly harmless symptoms such as decreased appetite and low energy. But this quickly takes a turn for the worse, as it can lead to fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and even death.

On the other hand, FCV is primarily a respiratory infection characterized by sneezing, nasal congestion, inflamed gums, fever, and excessive drooling. More severe cases may develop inflammation or ulceration of the tongue and the inner lining of the mouth. This illness is fatal for up to 60% of felines that show symptoms.

As for FVR/FHV-1, or the herpes virus—it’s transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal, whether through sharing food or toys or inhaling droplets from the air. The incubation period is anywhere from two to five days. Symptoms include uncontrollable sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, sleeping more than usual, and enlarged lymph nodes.

The feline vaccines for these conditions have proven to be quite effective in mitigating the symptoms. They prevent the infection from reactivating in the future as well, regardless of the amount of time it remains dormant in the body.


Also known as the leukemia virus, this disease is primarily transferred through bodily fluids, including saliva, urine, and feces. It’s worth noting that infection doesn’t always mean that felines will fall ill. In fact, there are plenty of instances where the feline falls into a regressive state and is perfectly healthy for the rest of their lives.

Sadly, some kitties aren’t that fortunate. In some cases, after a latency period lasting months and maybe even years, the disease progresses into one of its associated stages—immunosuppression, anemia, or lymphoma. This is why the FeLV vaccine for cats is considered one of the most crucial jabs in the immunization process.

The initial dose of the FeLV vaccine consists of two shots being administered at specific times. But cats’ booster shots aren’t unusual, with high-risk cases often requiring yearly visits.

Non-Core Vaccines

This part of the kitten vaccine schedule is perhaps the most personalized one. It contains shots deemed necessary for your pet and its particular situation, offering an all-around balanced level of protection. The list of recommended vaccines for cats is as follows:


The Feline Immunodeficiency Virus targets the immune system, weakening its fundamental defenses and leaving it susceptible to all kinds of illnesses. If your kitty comes into regular contact with other felines, whether at daycare or the vet, you should consider administering the shot just to be safe.

Even though the acute period of the infection could happen anywhere from one to three months, the gradual degradation of the immune system and white blood cells can be detrimental in the long run. Felines may develop chronic or recurrent conjunctivitis, skin rashes and allergic reactions, and urinary or respiratory tract inflammation.

Feline Chlamydia

This illness is caused by a bacteria known as Chlamydophila Felis, which results in chronic conjunctivitis and upper respiratory tract infections. Kittens and younger cats are particularly prone to this infection as their immune systems haven’t fully developed.

For the most part, the vaccine is recommended for all felines that spend lots of time at the groomers and kennels or live in a household with multiple cats. The usual clinical signs include watery or yellowish discharge from the eyes, swelling and redness around the same area, and mild sneezing or fever.


Finally, the disease that’s commonly referred to as kennel cough results in upper respiratory tract complications in felines that are particularly social with other animals. Any close contact with an infected animal could eventually cause mild sneezing, coughing, discharge from the eyes or nose, and fluctuating fever.


Feline Infectious Peritonitis is not that widespread, but once it finds its target, it’s imminently lethal. Weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, and a variable fever are all signs that point to this condition.

However, this vaccine still isn’t recommended as part of the immunization for cats in North America at the moment, as its effects aren’t as reliable and uniform enough to justify its regular use on cats. The AAHA/AAFP guidelines also state: “Only coronavirus seronegative cats have the potential to be protected, and most cats are seropositive before the age of recommended vaccination. Vaccine virus (serotype II) differs from the serotype (I) that predominantly causes clinical disease.”

Side Effects I Should Watch For After Cat Vaccination

In most cases, there are little to no side effects from any of the vaccines. Like humans, they might feel some weakness or have a low fever right after administration, but these should improve within a day or two.

Some felines might have an allergic reaction to a particular vaccine. You may notice redness, itchiness, swelling, or hives across the face. If that’s the case, take your pet to the vet immediately.

On rare occasions, there might be sarcomas on the injection site caused by persistent swelling in the place where the cat was vaccinated. Check in with a professional if you notice severe swelling.

How Much Are Cat Vaccinations

Generally speaking, the cost of each vaccine will vary depending on the provider and the location where it’s being administered. The round of jabs during the first year of life is usually more expensive, but the overall costs will decrease over time.

Type of Vaccine Cost
Rabies $25–$50 per dose
FVRCP $25–$50 per dose
Feline Leukemia $25–$50 per dose
Bordetella $10–$15 per dose
FIV  $40–$80 per dose

Key Takeaways

In any case, taking the necessary preventative measures in the form of vaccines is probably the best thing you can do for your feline in terms of healthcare. So, make sure you follow your vet’s suggested cat vaccine checklist to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats really need vaccines?

They most certainly do. All of the vaccines are specifically designed to act as a boost to their immune system and prevent complications should they get infected with a particular disease.

Do indoor cats need vaccines?

Yes, absolutely. Even indoor cats should be given all the core vaccines to keep them safe from some tricky and contagious diseases.

Can I vaccinate my cat myself?

DIY vaccinations are certainly a possibility, although you’d need to do some research on how to properly administer the shot. If you’re feeling reluctant or scared, it’s best to leave it to the professionals.

How often do cats need rabies shots?

Upon receiving the initial doses of the vaccine, you will be required to bring the cat to the vet for a booster shot annualy.

How many shots do cats need?

Cats need only three types of vaccines in reality; however, there are an additional three that are highly recommended by vets.


[1] AAHA

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