cat vaccinations

Cat Vaccination

Cat Vaccinations: Everything You Need to Know

Just as your family receives vaccines, so should your cat. Feline vaccinations are important for building a strong immune system. There are multiple diseases that cats can spread to one another, such as feline leukemia and upper respiratory viruses, and we in the veterinary community want to help protect family pets.

Your cat should start their vaccination series at eight weeks old and will need core vaccines and non-core vaccines based on their lifestyle. Reach out to your local veterinarian for any questions you might have about what cat vaccinations entail. He or she will help you determine the appropriate vaccines and cat vaccination schedule for your beloved pet. As a caring pet owner, you want to do the right thing to protect the long-term health of your cat. Here is what you need to know about cat vaccinations. 

Core Cat Vaccines


Rabies is a core vaccine because Rabies is zoonotic, meaning that it can be passed from animals to humans. Your cat should receive a Rabies vaccine at their last kitten wellness appointment around 16 weeks of age. This vaccine is vital and even more so if your cat hunts small rodents and bats that carry the Rabies disease. Once vaccinated for Rabies, your cat will be assigned a tag with an ID and a Rabies Vaccine Certificate. This is helpful if your cat escapes and has a collar on, as a veterinary hospital can look up your contact information by entering the tag number into the computer system. The rabies certificate you will receive when your cat is vaccinated is important for traveling, too.  


The core vaccine specific to cats is FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia). Your veterinarian may refer to this vaccine as the “respiratory series”. Your cat will receive their first FVRCP vaccine at 8 weeks old and continue it until they reach 16 weeks in age, and then they should receive a yearly booster to every 3 years based on the schedule your veterinarian recommends.

It is important to start your cat on this series because it protects them from upper respiratory infections that are extremely communicable between cats. In fact, if you bring in a new cat into your home, it would be wise to keep them separate from other household felines until they have completed their FVRCP vaccination series. This vaccine is usually required for boarding and grooming services. 

Non-core Cat Vaccines 

Feline Leukemia

Your cat’s lifestyle (if they remain indoors, or if they have any access to the outdoors) should determine if it would be necessary to vaccinate them for feline leukemia. It is beneficial for cats that routinely go outside to be vaccinated for Feline Leukemia (FeLv). Prior to deciding to vaccinate your cat for leukemia, you should first talk to your veterinarian about testing your cat for feline leukemia and aids. Both diseases are incurable but manageable. Unfortunately, there is not a vaccine yet for Feline Aids (FIV). Most cats live long lives even if they test positive for either of these. These diseases are contagious between cats by bodily fluids and, if positive, they should not be around other cats. 

If negative, your cat should receive the leukemia series. Even if they do not go outside, your veterinarian might still recommend the vaccine: just in case your cat escapes, their immune system is somewhat protected. If your cat does routinely visit the outdoors, they should finish the initial leukemia series and receive a booster every 1-2 years, depending on what your veterinarian decides is best for your cat.

Discuss Cat Vaccine Options With Your Veterinarian 

With the help of vaccines, your cat can be protected from upper respiratory diseases, Rabies, and the retrovirus Leukemia. Talk with your veterinarian about what vaccine schedule is best for your cat and if it would be beneficial for them to receive the leukemia vaccine. Your veterinarian will commonly recommend a span of one to two years between administering your cat vaccines based on lifestyle or health conditions. Vaccines are safe for your cat and can help them live a long and happy life. 

If you have any questions or concerns about cat vaccinations, reach out to a veterinarian near you to get the answers you need.