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How Often Do Cats Need Vaccinations? Check This Schedule

June 29, 2013

Kittens can seem like a money pit. They require frequent trips to the vet for their vaccinations, spay/neuter, and who knows whatever else. However, vaccinating a cat is a core part of preventative care, so you can feel relieved in knowing that your investment is going toward your cat’s health for years to come.

Photo courtesy Nottingham Vet School.

That said, just how often should a cat visit the vet for vaccinations? No matter if you’ve just adopted a kitten or are planning to, here’s a quick look at the run-down:

Core Vaccination Schedule

Kittens who nurse from their mothers receive an antibody in the milk that helps protect against diseases until the kitten’s immune system has matured. However, the maternal antibody can interfere with a vaccine’s ability to stimulate the kitten’s immune system, which is why some vaccines are given in a series.

Other vaccines, such as rabies, aren’t given until the mother’s antibody has totally disappeared in the kitten’s system.

6- to 8-weeks-old: FVRCP vaccine; boosters are given every three to four weeks until the kitten is 16-weeks old.

If a kitten is older than 12- to 16-weeks-old when the its vaccinations begin, he should receive the initial FVRCP vaccine along with one booster three to four weeks later.

12- to 16-weeks-old: Rabies vaccine. You may be able to schedule this vaccine with the last FVRCP booster. Speak to your vet to see what his policy is on this. Some pet parents prefer to spread out the vaccinations.

1-year-old: FVRCP and rabies vaccine.

After the one-year point, a cat will have to go in for vaccines every one to three years. This can vary depending on the type of vaccines your cat receives. Some are only good for one year, others are good for three years. While a three-year-vaccine may seem ideal, some research has linked the three-year rabies vaccine to vaccine-induced cancers. Consequently, some vets prefer to stick with the one-year varieties.

Photo courtesy Brit.

No matter what your cat’s age, if he is sick, delay his vaccinations until he’s recovered.

Non-Core Vaccination Schedule

Non-core vaccines may or may not be necessary; discuss these with your vet.

FeLV (feline leukemia virus): First vaccination occurs at 8 weeks of age; second occurs at 11 weeks. Boosters are given once every one to three years.

Chlamydophila: First vaccination occurs at 8 weeks of age; second occurs at 11 weeks. Boosters are given every year.

FIP (feline infectious peritonitis): First dose administered intranasally after four months of age. Boosters are given every six months.

Giardia: First vaccination occurs at 8 weeks of age; second occurs at 10 to 12 weeks. Boosters are given every year.

FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus): First vaccination occurs at 8 weeks of age; second occurs at 10-11 weeks, third occurs at 12-13 weeks. Boosters are given every year.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren T. permalink
    June 29, 2013 11:20 am

    How often do your cats get the distemper/FVRCP shots? I know there are 1 year and 3 year variations. I hate giving Mimosa the distemper shot every year because she seems to be more sluggish and grumpy after each time but my vet says they don’t recommend the three year because it may be linked with a greater risk of cancer at the site and she says (in her opinion) it hasn’t been around long enough for it to be properly tested, so Mimosa has gotten one ever year so far. She is an indoor cat. I hate people who over-vaccinate but I also am one of those people who like to take pets for yearly and consistent check ups to make sure they are healthy. I’m always so torn when its time to go to the vet! I think I’m more stressed than Mimosa.

    • June 29, 2013 11:30 am

      They get their FVRCP every year, and for the first time recently we’ve started them on the 3-year rabies shot. This is definitely a personal decision and one everyone should make after considering their own cats, how they respond to shots, any information provided by their vet, their own comfort level, etc. But you’re right, it’s enough to stress anyone out!

    • Janine permalink
      June 22, 2016 11:37 am

      According to the WSAVA the FVRCP vaccine should be given every 3 years:

  2. Janine permalink
    June 13, 2016 11:18 am

    The FVRCP vaccine is only supposed to be given every 3 years now, not yearly! You can still take your cat for a health check every year without getting the vaccine. From the American Association of Feline Practitioners:

    Click to access VaccinationGLS-summary.pdf

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