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Kitten Vaccination – All You Need To Know (BONUS: Printable Schedule)

Looking for a guide to tell you more about vaccination in kittens? Then this article is for you. Discover whether you should vaccinate your cat in the first place, which vaccines are necessary and which ones are not, and how to recognize if your kitten has a severe reaction to the vaccine shot.

If you decided which cat fits you best, you equipped your home with all the things your cat will need and now you’re all settled for welcoming a little kitten to your life, this article is for you.

After you’ve done all of these things, you will have to get a bit deeper in some health matters of our feline friends. First of all, do you have a vet? At what age should you start vaccinating your kitten? Should you vaccinate your kitten at all?

While some things around vaccination might seem confusing at first, once you get to know some basic things about it, everything will become much clearer. Before taking a look at the controversial topic of whether you should vaccinate or not, let’s explain what vaccination is and how it works.

What Is Vaccination and How Does It Work?

Kitten vaccination works the same as any other vaccination. Vaccines are a way of preventing kittens of contracting specific illnesses. Vaccinated kittens create immunity to illnesses whose antibodies are found in the vaccine. However, the vaccines are only effective after about five to ten days.

Although kittens are born with some maternal antibodies, there is no way of determining if the kitten has them or not. This is why boosters are necessary in order to guarantee true immunity. However, true immunity can only be certain after all boosters are administered which usually occurs around 16 or 18 weeks of age.

Administration of vaccines shouldn’t be painful, but your kitten might probably feel a little pinch or sting.

Your vet will suggest the best vaccination schedule for your kitten and will likely discuss with you other treatments too (deworming and parasite prevention).

Should You Vaccinate Your Kitten?

Vaccination has caused a lot of debate in the last decade, and the discussion on whether kittens, pups, and kids should be vaccinated or not is still ongoing.

While vaccination has to be scheduled attentively, and the shots shouldn’t be given to any living creature too frequently, it is still the best way to prevent the development of some deadly or very dangerous diseases. As a cat owner, you’re responsible of your cat’s health and longevity, and vaccination is definitely a crucial part of making sure your cat is healthy and protected. By vaccinating your cat, you are also taking care of other cats, animals and people too.

Vaccination ends the spreading of deadly and dangerous diseases, which makes their administration a crucial step in providing an overall healthy environment for all felines.

So, should you vaccinate your kitten?

Yes, vaccinating kittens is a crucial step in ensuring a healthy life of your feline friend. However, the vaccination should be administered responsibly and according to a plan discussed with a vet.

In certain places such as California, vaccine against rabies is required by law. Rabies poses a threat to humans and is an illness that spreads quickly from cats to humans, which is the reason this vaccine is required by law. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that your cat should get other vaccine shots.

But what are these recommended vaccines each kitten should get? Are there some vaccines that you can skip?

What Are The Necessary Shots For Kittens?

Apart from Rabies vaccine that is usually required by law, there are also other cat vaccines considered to be necessary and the ones that are not. In fact, kitten vaccines can be put into two categories: core vaccines and non-core vaccines.

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines for cats include:

  • FVRCP – Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia
  • Rabies

As we previously mentioned Rabies is a fatal virus that can affect both cats and humans, which is why this vaccine is considered as essential. All kittens and cats should be vaccinated against it.

Core vaccine against rabies can be given to kittens that are about 12 weeks old. However, in some cases laws require vaccinating your kitten at different times, so check everything accordingly with your vet.

Another core vaccine every cat should get is FVRCP, which stands for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Calicivirus, along with the rhinotracheitis that is a medical name for feline herpesvirus, are two viruses that most commonly cause upper respiratory infections. Panleukopenia is also known as feline distemper, and is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease that attacks cells in intestines, bone marrow, and developing fetus.

The FVRCP combination vaccine will protect your kitten against all of these three feline diseases. Kittens can start getting FVRCP as early as 6 weeks of age, and should be vaccinated every three or four weeks until they reach the age of about 16 weeks. Some vets prefer to avoid over-vaccination, and recommend starting the vaccination at 8 weeks of age instead that will be followed by booster vaccines at 12 and 16 weeks old.

Non-Core Kitten Vaccinations

While core vaccines are practically mandatory, non-core vaccines are not crucial for every cat. These vaccines are usually given to kittens that are at risk of developing a particular disease, or cats that have a certain lifestyle that requires a stronger health protection against other illnesses.

These vaccines are administered annually, and only if your vet has analyzed your cat’s individual needs before advising you to take them.

Non-core vaccines include:

  • Feline Leukemia – FeLV
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus – FIV
  • Chlamydophila Felis
  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis – FIP
  • Feline Giardia

Some veterinarians recommend the vaccine against Feline leukemia to all kittens, while others recommend it for kittens that are at risk of disease based on a kitten’s lifestyle. This viral disease is transmitted from mother to kittens, or through close contact with infected cats. Discuss with your vet if this is a necessary vaccine for your kitten to, or you can pass on this one. If you eventually decide that your cat should have it, you should know that your kitten will have to be tested for FeLV first.

FIV vaccine is only given to cats that are at high risk from this viral disease. Feline Immunodeficiency virus is transmitted from cat to cat through bite wounds. However, the vaccine doesn’t guarantee a complete protection. Same as with FeLV, prior to the vaccination, a cat should be tested for FIV.

Chlamydophila felis is a virus causing conjunctivitis and respiratory problems. This vaccine is usually given to cats that cohabit with other cats, or where the infection potentially exists.

Feline infectious peritonitis is a disease caused by a virus called coronavirus that attacks the cells of the intestinal wall. The vaccine against FIP is rarely recommended because of it’s uncertain efficacy.

Feline Giardia is an intestinal infection caused by a parasite called Giardia duodenalis. Similarly to FIP vaccine, this one is also rarely recommended. In fact, both Giardia and Fip vaccines are still being tested which explains why it’s unlikely that your vet recommends them to you.

What Age Does A Kitten Need Injections?

The idea of kitten vaccination might be much clearer to you now. You know how they work, why are they considered as essential for your kittens health and, finally, which vaccines are necessary and which ones are not. But let’s get to the logistics.

When should your kitten start getting vaccination?

In order to determine the precise age (if it’s the 6th or 8th week of your cat’s life), you might however need professional assistance. Your vet will tell you what is the right time for your cat specifically to get vaccines.

However, the administration of shots in kittens usually starts from 6 or 8 weeks of age. After the first vaccination, shots are given every 3 to 4 weeks until the kitten is about 16 weeks old. In order to make it easier to remember for you, here’s the shot schedule for kittens.

Shot Schedule For Kittens:

Puppy’s AgeCore VaccinesNon-Core Vaccines
6 to 8 weeksFVRCPFeLV/FIV
9 to 11 weeksFVRCP boosterFeLV, FIV boosters
12 to 14 weeksFVRCP boosterFeLV, FIV boosters
15 to 17 weeksFVRCP final booster, RabiesFeLV/FIV test

Side Effects and Risks of Vaccination in Kittens

Every responsible cat owner that decides to vaccinate its kitten should also be aware of the possible side effects and potential risks of kitten vaccination.

Although they are really uncommon, some risks are still associated with vaccines. Since vaccination works by stimulating the immune system, one of the risks is the development of auto-immune disorders. They can be very hard to treat and can seriously affect your cat’s health. However, considering the low chances of this occurring, you would be on a much safer side if you decide to provide your kitten with recommended shots.

Benefits of vaccines far outweigh the potential risks, especially in case of young cats. Vaccination plays a vital role in fighting dangerous feline diseases.

However, some mild symptoms can occur after a shot administration and they typically go away on their own. But, at times, a kitten might also have severe reactions to a vaccine which has to be treated by a professional as soon as the symptoms are noticed.

Let’s list out the normal adverse reactions that can occur after a vaccination :

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Swelling at the injection site
  • Lethargy
  • Mild fever

It’s extremely rare, but sometimes cats can have severe allergic reactions to vaccines. If left untreated, these reactions can be even fatal for kittens. So, if your cat just got a vaccine shot and is showing some or all of the following symptoms, make sure to go to the nearest vet immediately:

  • Hives
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Severe lethargy
  • High fever
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficult breathing