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Everything You need to Know About Cat Vaccines

Posted: 02/20/2023 | BY: Jenna Bruce | Categories: Cat , Pet care

Everything You Need to Know About Cat Vaccines

Our cats are a part of our family and we want to take care of them to the best of our ability. One way to ensure our cat’s health is to stay up to date with all of their cat vaccines.

It can be difficult knowing the exact right schedule for cat vaccines as it tends to be a contentious debate within veterinary medicine. In addition, many pet parents have understandable concerns about possible side effects of cat vaccines, and if all of them are absolutely necessary.

As always, we recommend speaking with your vet and asking any of these questions so you can feel good and have a better understanding. Having said that, we thought we’d take this opportunity to go over the standard guidelines for cat vaccines.

Cat Vaccines Guidelines

cat vaccines

Your vet will recommend you follow a cat vaccine schedule set forth by the Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel. This group, made up of dedicated feline scientists and veterinarians,  regularly researches and evaluates cat vaccination developments in order to make science-based recommendations. Needless to say, the guidelines set forth by the FVAP are among the most trusted in the field.

This panel divides cat vaccines into two categories, core and noncore vaccines. 

Core Vaccines are recommended for all cats, no matter where they live or what their personal lifestyle is. Noncore vaccines are those that are appropriate for some cats in some situations, for example if a cat is an indoor/outdoor cat.

So what are the core vaccines that your vet will most likely recommend? Most will recommend the FVRCP and rabies vaccines as these cover highly infectious diseases that are very dangerous to cats. Luckily the vaccines offer good protection with minimal risk or side effects.

The FeLV vaccine is another core vaccine intended for kittens. This vaccine prevents the feline leukemia virus. While an FeLV infection is not an automatic death sentence, many cats do not fare well. So this cat vaccine is recommended by most vets.

Something to note however is that while the FeLV vaccine is a core vaccine for kittens, it then becomes optional (noncore) for cats that are one year old or older. If you have an older cat, speak with your vet to see what they recommend.

Other core cat vaccines include:

  • Feline Panleukopenia – FPV – Feline parvovirus is highly infectious with a high mortality rate in kittens.
  • Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus/Herpesvirus 1 – (FVR/FHV-1) – The feline herpesvirus causes severe upper respiratory infections in unprotected cats.
  • Feline Calicivirus – FCV – Feline calicivirus can also cause upper respiratory infections as well as painful inflammation of the gums and teeth.

Cat Vaccination Schedule

cat vaccines schedule

The following are the general cat vaccination scheduling guidelines:

Kittens (up to 1 year of age)

6-8 weeks:

  • FVRCP (core)
  • FeLV (core)

10-12 weeks:

  • FVRCP (core; first or second shot)
  • FeLV (core; first or second shot)

14-16 weeks:

  • FVRCP (core; only if first shot given at 10-12 weeks)
  • Rabies
  • FeLV (core; only if first shot given at 10-12 weeks)

1 year after initial series:

  • FVRCP booster
  • Rabies booster
  • Adult and Senior Cats (Over 1 year old)

Every year:

  • FELV (optional non-core vaccine)

Every 1-3 years:

  • FVRCP (every 3 years for indoor cats, and every year for indoor/outdoor, outdoor-only, very young, or senior cats)
  • Rabies (1-year or 3-year vaccine depending on state laws)

Will Cat Vaccines Protect My Cat 100%?

cat vaccines safety

While vaccines will protect the majority of cats most of the time, it is unreasonable to assume they offer 100% protection 100% of the time. No matter the vaccine, failures do occur, usually because there are different strains of viruses. Current vaccines may only protect against certain types of strains.

Another reason why cat vaccines can fail is because of maternity derived antibodies. Kittens get these from their mother when they nurse and the antibodies help protect the kitten during their first 3 vulnerable months of life. The problem is, these antibodies can also block the effects of the vaccination in the same way they block potential harmful infections. The blocking effect will decrease over time as the kitten matures, but it’s why booster shots are generally recommended. 

And finally, the effects of stress can also prevent a good response to vaccination. If the cat was stressed at the time the vaccines were administered, or if they were not very healthy, the vaccines may not be 100% effective at preventing disease.

What are the Risks of Vaccination?

Should you have any concerns or questions about cat vaccines, speak with your vet who can go into depth about any possible negative side effects. Generally speaking, there are some potential side effects such as lethargy and appetite loss for a day or two after vaccination. Just as people sometimes feel a little… blah after receiving the flu shot, your cat can also feel under the weather.

Some cats may also have an allergic reaction to a vaccine, which can result in more serious side effects such as difficulty in breathing, vomiting or diarrhea. If these signs occur, contact your veterinarian immediately.

risks of cat vaccines

Can Pet Insurance Help with Vaccinations?

Most pet health insurance providers offer two main policies: accident & illness and accident only. Many providers, however, also offer a wellness plan that can help pay for routine care such as vaccinations, spaying and neutering, check-ups, dental and certain medications. 

If you are thinking of enrolling your little fur baby into a plan, the earlier the better, as you’ll be able to lock in a lower price. The older a cat gets, the higher the monthly premium gets. For a kitten, you could potentially find a policy with a premium as low as $10.

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  1. “Core Vaccines for Pet Cats” Retrieved from:
  2. Huston, L., DVM., “Cat Vaccinations,” Retrieved from:
  3. “Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks,” From the Cornell Feline Health Center



The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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