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The essentials

  • Vaccines are the purr-fect protection — These shots help protect your feline friend from serious diseases and keep them in tip-top shape.
  • The cost of vaccines shouldn’t scratch too deep — Explore options like low-cost clinics, wellness packages, or even pet insurance to keep kitty care affordable.
  • A dose of planning for a long, healthy life — Have a well-thought-out plan to ensure they get the right protection at the right time; keeping them healthy for all nine of their lives.

While vaccinations are a crucial part of maintaining your cat’s health, there has been some controversy surrounding the topic within the veterinary world. It’s important to understand these discussions to make the best decisions for your feline friend.

One of the main points of contention is the frequency of vaccinations. Some veterinarians argue that we may be over-vaccinating our pets, potentially leading to unnecessary costs and health risks.

On the other hand, proponents of regular vaccinations emphasize their role in preventing severe diseases and maintaining overall pet health. 

Despite these controversies, it’s important to remember that the core purpose of vaccinations is to protect your cat from various diseases. Here’s what you need to know about cat vaccinations.

👉 Another disease, known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), is considered a serious disease caused by a coronavirus. However, vaccination is listed as “not generally recommended” by the American Animal Hospital Association’s Vaccine Task Force based on lack of clinical relevance in the field.

Cat vaccination schedule

Understanding your cat’s vaccination schedule is crucial to ensuring their long-term health and well-being. Vaccines help protect your feline friend from a variety of serious diseases, some of which can be life-threatening.

 Like the vaccines themselves, the schedule for vaccinations is also divided into two categories: essential (or core) vaccines that every cat should receive, and optional (or non-core) vaccines that are recommended based on a cat’s specific lifestyle and risk factors.

Here’s a handy chart to help you keep track of your feline’s vaccinations:

Age Essential Vaccinations Optional Vaccinations
6-8 weeks Feline panleukopenia (FPV), feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1), feline calicivirus (FCV), or 3-in-1 FVRCP -
12 weeks Second dose of FPV, FHV-1, FCV Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
16 weeks Third dose of FPV, FHV-1, FCV, rabies Second dose of FeLV
1 year Booster for FPV, FHV-1, FCV, rabies, FVRCP (for higher-risk cats) Booster for FeLV if at risk
Every 1-3 years thereafter Booster for FPV, FHV-1, FCV, rabies, FVRCP (for indoor cats) Booster for FeLV if at risk

If your cat spends lots of time outdoors, comes into contact with other animals, or has a history of catching prey, they might be considered at higher risk. For these cats, additional boosters of the FeLV vaccine, or more frequent boosters of the FVRCP vaccine might be recommended. 

Other optional vaccines, like those for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or Bordetella, may also be considered.

Costs associated with cat vaccinations

When it comes to caring for your furry friend, understanding the potential costs is an important part of being a responsible pet parent. Vaccinating your cat is crucial for their health and well-being, but the costs can vary widely depending on several factors.

If you take your cat to a private veterinary clinic, the cost for each vaccine can range between $15 to $50, depending on the specific vaccine. Remember, kittens will need a series of vaccinations in their first few months, so these costs can add up quickly.

There are plenty of low-cost options available to help make vaccinations more affordable. Many communities offer low-cost vaccination clinics at local animal shelters or pet stores. Some veterinary clinics also offer wellness packages that include all the necessary vaccines and regular check-ups for an annual fee.

Let’s break down the average costs based on the age-based vaccination schedule:

  • Kittens (6-16 weeks). Given that kittens require several rounds of vaccinations, you might spend between $75 to $200 during this period.
  • 1 year old. At this stage, your cat will need booster shots. The cost could range from $50 to $100.
  • Every 1-3 years thereafter. Adult cats require boosters every one to three years. Each visit might cost between $50 to $100.

Planning for your pet’s healthcare costs is just as important as following the recommended vaccine schedule. One great way to manage these costs is by considering pet insurance which can help cover the cost of most vaccinations. You can ensure your cat gets the care they need without causing financial stress — it’s a win-win!

👉 It’s important to note that these are just estimates and actual costs can vary based on location, the specific veterinary practice, and your cat’s individual health needs. Always discuss the costs with your veterinarian and explore different options to ensure your cat receives the necessary healthcare without breaking the bank.

Types of cat vaccinations

The world of cat vaccinations can initially seem complex, but it’s all about protecting your feline friend from a variety of potential health risks. Vaccines are designed to trigger immune responses and prepare the body to fight future infections. They come in different types, each with a unique purpose and method of action. 

Let’s simplify this by going over the main types of cat vaccines:

  • Modified live vaccines (MLV). These vaccines contain a version of the living virus that has been modified so it won’t cause the disease in your cat. Instead, it stimulates a strong and effective immune response, training the body for the next time it encounters the pathogen. 
  • Killed (inactivated) vaccines. These vaccines contain a killed or inactivated form of the virus. While they’re safe and cannot cause disease, they might not stimulate as strong an immune response as MLVs. Often, they’re combined with substances called adjuvants to enhance the immune response.
  • Recombinant vaccines. The most advanced type, these vaccines use only the necessary antigens of a virus (not the whole virus) to stimulate an immune response. They’re very safe and effective, and there’s no risk of them causing the disease.

Every cat is unique — and so are their healthcare needs. Each of the core and non-core vaccines offers different levels of protection and duration of immunity. However, it’s ultimately up to you and your vet to determine the best course of action.

Informed pet parents are the best pet parents. So keep asking questions, keep researching, and keep prioritizing your cat’s health above all else—because they’re worth it!

Frequently asked questions

What kind of vaccines do cats need?

Cats require certain core vaccines that protect them from common and severe diseases. These include feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1), feline calicivirus (FCV), rabies, and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) for cats under one year old or those at risk. Additional non-core vaccines may be recommended based on your cat’s lifestyle and risk factors.

How often do cats really need vaccinations?

The frequency of vaccinations depends on the type of vaccine, your cat’s age, medical history, lifestyle, and potential exposure to diseases. Kittens usually start their vaccinations at around 6-8 weeks old and continue with boosters every 3-4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Adult cats generally need boosters yearly or every three years. It’s best to consult with your vet for a tailored vaccination schedule.

Do indoor cats need vaccines?

Yes, even indoor cats need vaccinations. While they may have a lower risk of exposure to certain diseases, they can still be susceptible to airborne diseases if they ever accidentally get outside. Additionally, core vaccines like rabies and feline panleukopenia are essential for all cats, irrespective of their living situation.

What is a 5-in-1 vaccine for cats?

A 5-in-1 vaccine for cats, also known as a combination vaccine, protects your cat against multiple diseases in one shot. It typically includes core vaccines like feline panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. The exact diseases covered can vary, so it’s important to discuss this with your vet.

What vaccinations do cats need to travel internationally?

The required vaccinations for international travel can vary based on the destination country’s regulations. However, most countries require proof of current rabies vaccination. Some countries may also require feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis vaccines. Always check with the destination country’s consulate or animal import regulations well in advance of travel.

How much is cat vaccination?

The cost of cat vaccinations can vary based on the type of vaccine, your geographical location, and the specific veterinary practice. On average, you can expect to pay between $15 and $30 per vaccine. However, costs can be higher if the vaccine is part of a larger veterinary appointment or wellness visit.