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Cat Vaccines and Viruses: What you Need to Know

Updated: May 11, 2022

It is important to keep your cat vaccines up to date, even if your cat is an indoor cat.

Getting your cat vaccinated is important to the long term health and well being of your cat. Here are a list of different viruses and vaccines that you should be aware of when it comes to getting your cat vaccinated:


The rabies virus causes a disease that is nearly always fatal. All mammals, including humans, can become infected with rabies. Most domestic animals are at risk of contracting the virus from the bite on an infected animal. Much less commonly, transmission can occur through ingestion of tissue from an infected animal or aerosol exposure. Certain wildlife species, including bats and raccoons, are the most common sources of rabies infection.

The virus incubates in the body for an infected animal for a variable period of time (weeks to months) prior to causing signs of disease. The signs of disease can vary widely. Rabies primarily targets the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) Most commonly, animals showing signs of rabies will experience abrupt changes in behavior and progressive paralysis. Symptoms include fever, increased reactions to sound and sight, restlessness, aggression, hyper-salivation, uncoordinated movement, weakness, difficult eating or drinking, coma, and sudden death.

Once signs of rabies are apparent, there are no effective treatments. Death occurs within 10 days.

The rabies vaccine is required by law for cats and dogs and is available for immunization for 1 or 3 years. Kittens and adult cats receiving their first rabies vaccine will require a rabies booster 1 year after initial vaccination. Be aware of state and local laws regarding vaccination requirements.


Ideally, kittens begin receiving vaccination against FVRCP at 8 weeks of age and receive boosters every 3-4 weeks, through 16 weeks of age.

In the event a cat is at least 16 weeks of age and has never received an initial series, they will require FVRCP vaccination booster 3-4 weeks after receiving an initial vaccine. Adult cats are encouraged to receive annual vaccination, or vaccination every 3 years to maintain immunity.

FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is one of two major retroviral diseases witnessed in cat populations. FeLV causes a serious disease, often causing fatality within 3 years. FeLV can lead to anemia, cancer, and immune system suppression.

Cats often become infected with FeLV through direct contact with the saliva or nasal secretions of another infected cat, through the bite of an infected cat, and it can also be transmitted through birth. Symptoms include fever, decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and enlarged lymph nodes. Kittens younger than 4 months of age are particularly susceptible to infection.

It is important to test cats for FeLV and FIV prior to vaccination and/or bringing them home. The best way to prevent transmission is to reduce exposure. Vaccination is highly recommended for cats that go outside or live among other cats. The first vaccination requires a booster 3-4 weeks later. After initial exposure, vaccination is recommended annually.

Stop by and get your pet vaccinated today! It doesn't cost much and it will prevent serious medical bills in the future.


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