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Cat and kitten vaccinations: Vet's guide to everything you need to know

cat and kitten vaccinations
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Are you a proud pet parent with some questions about kitten vaccinations? When you take on a new family member of the furry and purry kind, there are lots of things to think about. 

Caring for a cat companion is a big responsibility, so you might find your head spinning trying to find the best pet insurance, the perfect cat litter and a comfortable cat carrier for your kitty. 

Remember, your vet is always available to help with any questions that you might have, but here’s some information about kitten vaccinations that should help.

What vaccinations do kittens need? 

If you’re wondering what diseases vaccinations can protect against, the answer is quite a few! Kittens should receive their core vaccinations, as a minimum, and this gives them cover against Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia virus. 

Rabies might also be considered a core vaccination, depending on where you live. Other non-core vaccinations that might be recommended depending on your location and your kitty’s lifestyle include Feline Leukaemia Virus, Chlamydophila, and Bordatella bronchiseptica. 

When should a kitten be vaccinated? 

At around eight weeks old, kittens should have their first vaccination, protecting them against Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. This vaccination is repeated every four weeks until they are sixteen weeks old. 

At sixteen weeks old, they might also need their Rabies vaccination, depending on the legislation and risks in your area. If you live in an area where Feline Leukaemia Virus vaccination is recommended, your cat will be tested to check that they don’t have the disease first.

vet examining kitten

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How long are vaccinations effective? 

The length of time that vaccination protects your cat from diseases depends on the disease and your location. In many countries, an annual Rabies vaccination is required. However, a vaccination every second or third year is sufficient in other countries. 

The core vaccinations should be repeated every year to ensure that your cat is fully protected. The extra benefit of a yearly vaccination is that it gives your veterinarian a chance to do a full health check on your cat, ensuring that they're fit and well. 

Kitten vaccinations schedule 

Kitten AgeCore VaccinesNon-Core Vaccines
6 to 8 weeksRCP (Herpes, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia)
10 to 12 weeksRCPFeLV (if tested negative)
14 to 16 weeksRCP, RabiesFeLV (if tested negative)

What to expect at a vaccine appointment 

Whatever your cat or kitten’s age, their vaccination appointment will involve a full health check by the veterinarian. At their first vaccine appointment, your veterinarian will discuss neutering, parasite control, and nutrition. They'll also answer any questions that you might have about caring for your new bundle of joy.

Are kitten vaccinations stressful for your pet? 

It’s natural for pet parents to worry about their new fur baby and whether a trip to the vet will make them stressed or anxious. However, the veterinary staff are trained to put you and your furry friend at ease and make it as pleasant an experience as possible. 

This means lots of treats and cuddles for them and a kind and reassuring face for you. If you’re worried that your kitten might be anxious during their trip to the vet clinic, why not use calming sprays and place some clothing that smells of you in their carrier? Similarly, plenty of treats should help keep your kitty as care-free as possible.

Black and white kitten on the carpet playing with a blue ball of wool

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do indoor kittens need vaccinations? 

You might assume that if your cat doesn’t go outside, they won’t need vaccinations. Each cat or kitten's lifestyle is evaluated to decide which disease they need to be protected from. 

However, it’s still a good idea to vaccinate your indoor kitten, at least with the core vaccines. Remember, even if your kitten never goes outside, you or other pets could bring germs in from outside. Equally, if your cat escapes, or you just decide to start letting them out, they should be protected. 

Do kittens only need to be vaccinated once? 

Kittens need a course of vaccinations to ensure they are covered against severe diseases. The RCP vaccination must be given in a course of three injections, four weeks apart. It must then be repeated every year to ensure their immunity lasts. If you’re not sure which vaccinations your kitten needs, your veterinarian will be able to help.

Potential side effects of vaccinations 

Reactions to vaccinations are not common, and millions of pets receive their vaccines every year with no problems. However, any drug or medication has the potential to cause side effects. The licensing authority monitors these side effects to ensure that the drug is safe to use. 

Luckily, most vaccine reactions are mild, including tenderness at the injection site or feeling a little off-color for a day or two. Vomiting and diarrhea can also occur. Occasionally, more serious side effects can occur, so it's crucial to speak to your veterinarian if your pet is unwell and has recently had a vaccine. 

sad cat lying in basket

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cost of kitten vaccinations and neutering 

The cost of kitten vaccinations and neutering will vary depending on where you live and which veterinary clinic you use. If you have concerns about whether you’ll be able to afford to care for your kitten, speak to your veterinary team.

Is it too late to vaccinate my cat? 

It’s never too late to protect your cat by vaccinating them. Even adult cats can receive a course of vaccines to give them the immunity they need.

Summary 

Kitten vaccinations can seem complicated and overwhelming. But, with the above information and some help from your veterinarian, you can ensure that your kitten stays as healthy as possible. 

Dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet with a love of dentistry and soft tissue surgery. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and their two cats.