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The Shots Your Kitten Needs to Start Life Right!

If you’ve just brought a cat into your family, congratulations! He’s yours to cuddle and play with. But part of kitten care is keeping him safe and healthy, and that means getting him the vaccines he needs to start life right. Your furry friend needs a range of vaccinations and boosters to give him the best chance at a healthy future.

Find out which shots are important for your cat’s health, why, and when you should schedule them.

Rabies Vaccine

Rabies is a serious disease, and the vaccine is one of the most important shots for your cat. It’s required by law in many cities and towns across the United States.

Rabies can affect a wide range of animals, including humans, and it’s a fatal disease.

Signs of rabies in cats include:

  • Sudden change in behavior (usually aggressive)
  • Inability to swallow
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble breathing
  • Change in voice
  • Sudden death

There is no cure for rabies, so vaccination is essential.

When Your Kitten Should Get the Rabies Shot

Many veterinarians suggest getting the rabies shot at about 12 weeks, but you can schedule it at 8 weeks. Your cat should receive a rabies booster shot a year later and, at most, every three years after that.

After your cat receives his vaccination, keep the paperwork on hand for easy reference.

what shots do kittens need

Feline Rhinotracheitis Vaccine

Feline rhinotracheitis, also known as the feline herpesvirus infection or feline herpes, is taken care of as part of the FVRCP combination vaccine. Herpes in cats is one of the main causes of upper respiratory infections and can also lead to conjunctivitis.

This virus appears 2 to 5 days after infection, lasts for up to 20 days, and can reactivate during stressful periods during your cat’s life. When symptoms are apparent, your cat can infect other cats.

The signs of feline herpes include:

  • Ulcers on the eyes
  • Squinting
  • Eye discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Eating less
  • Lethargy

When Your Kitten Should Get the Feline Herpes Shot

Feline rhinotracheitis is particularly dangerous for kittens, but it’s unpleasant for adult cats as well and can put other felines at risk as well. The FVRCP vaccine is a three-part shot that can be administered at six weeks, though eight weeks is the recommended age. After the initial shot, your kitten will receive an additional shot every 3 to 4 weeks until he’s about 16 weeks old. He should get a booster at about one year.

Feline Calicivirus Vaccine

The ‘C’ in the FVRCP vaccine stands for feline calicivirus, also known as FVC. Another common cause of upper respiratory disease, this is an infection often found in shelters. Kittens are most likely to catch calicivirus, so vaccination is essential.

Common symptoms of this virus include:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing
  • Red and watering eyes
  • Lack of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Arthritis
  • Fever

The calicivirus is resilient, so it can spread easily. It can be very dangerous to cats and may result in pneumonia, so care is essential if your cat catches this virus.

When Your Kitten Should Get the FVC Shot

Kittens should follow the FVRCP schedule for this disease.

Feline Panleukopenia Vaccine

The third part of the FVRCP vaccine is for feline panleukopenia, which is also known as “feline distemper” or “feline parvo.” In prior years, this virus was extremely dangerous to cats and proved fatal to many. Today it is an uncommon disease, thanks largely to the vaccine.

FP acts by attacking cells in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and intestines (or fetus in the case of a pregnant cat). More common (and deadly) to young cats, symptoms of panleukopenia include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Low white blood cell counts

If your cat catches this virus, he’ll need intensive care.

When Your Kitten Should Get the Feline Parvo Shot

Kittens should follow the FVRCP schedule for this disease.

Feline Leukemia Vaccine

The feline leukemia (FeLV) vaccine is often recommended by veterinarians, but it’s not required. Indoor only cats are less likely to catch FeLV, but indoor-outdoor cats or outdoor cats can be highly susceptible. The virus is passed from cat to cat by bodily fluids, so grooming and fighting are common ways for cats to catch it.

The symptoms of feline leukemia virus include:

  • Fever
  • Inflamed gums
  • Lack of appetite and energy
  • Infections
  • Weight loss

When Your Kitten Should Get the Feline Leukemia Shot

Although this vaccine is not considered a core shot, many vets highly recommend it. Most cats that catch FeLV pass away within three years. Your kitten should receive this vaccination around 8 to 12 weeks and receive a booster about a month later.

Other Kitten Vaccinations

what shots do kittens need

There may be other vaccinations for your kitten that your veterinarian recommends—or are required by some boarding facilities—based on his environment and his health history.

Veterinarians generally only recommend the FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) vaccine for cats at high risk. Many cats can live with FIV for years with proper care, but critical signs of the disease include:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Inflammation

If your vet suggests this vaccination, your kitten will receive his first shot at about eight weeks old and then two booster shots in the next six weeks.

The chlamydophila felis shot is another vaccine that may be recommended by your vet if your new kitten lives in an area where the infection already exists. It can cause upper respiratory problems, as well as limping or a reduced appetite. The first shot can be received at nine weeks or older and requires a booster about a month later.

Bordetella is an extremely common bacteria found in kennels, so the vaccine is often required by boarding facilities. Kittens are most susceptible and will display severe symptoms, but any cat can catch this disease.

Signs include:

  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing problems
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Talk to your veterinarian about this vaccine and whether or not they believe it is for your cat. If your cat requires it, he’ll need a booster shot every year.

Your kitten’s core vaccinations are essential to his health and wellness. Young cats are especially susceptible to many viruses and bacterial infections, so it’s important to talk to your vet about vaccination schedules and recommendations.

We can help you create a shot and booster schedule to make sure your furry friend gets the preventive care he needs. We’d love to meet your new family member! To schedule his first checkup or a booster shot, give Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital a call at 281-693-7387.

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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