Kitten Shots!

 So you just got a new kitten and know that you are supposed to bring the lil’ fuzz-ball to the vet for its shots.  What you may not know is exactly why, what and when he/she needs them.  Here’s some basic information to bring you ‘up-to-speed’:

The WHY . . .

                  Why Do I Need to Vaccinate My Kitten?

There are several diseases that cats get that can be fatal in kittens and destroy the good health of adult cats.  These can be easily spread from cat to cat, whether it is outdoors, in a kennel/shelter, or in a home among pets.  Vaccination is the best way to help prevent the spread of disease and is typically less costly than treating an animal once it is sick.

Why Are There So Many Shots So Close Together?

A kitten gets protection (in the form of “maternal antibodies”) from these diseases through their mother’s milk.  These only last for the first few months, but while present, can interfere with our vaccines and make them not last as long.  A kitten will receive 2-3 doses of vaccine over several weeks so that if there were any maternal antibodies interfering with an earlier vaccine, the later doses will stimulate the kitten to make its own antibodies and thus be protected.

 . . . the WHAT . . .

The main vaccines we give kittens are what are considered “Core” vaccines and are recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP):

  1. FVRCP Combo:  Feline Viral Rhinotrachealis (herpes virus type 1), Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia

Herpes virus and calicivirus mainly cause respiratory disease (“Cat-Flu”) and can be easily passed from one cat to another by direct contact or by being aerosolized when coughing or sneezing.  (It would be quite difficult for cats to sneeze into their elbows!)  It causes watery to sticky discharge from the eyes and nose, sores on the nose and mouth, fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite.  In young kittens or in immunocompromised cats, this can be fatal if they develop pneumonia.  Just like human flu-shots, immunity to these viruses can be overcome if exposed by a high dose of virus in the immediate environment.

  1. FeLv:  Feline Leukemia Virus

This is a widespread disease among outdoor cats and causes suppression of the immune system and can lead to cancers.  Most infected cats can appear completely normal and healthy before for many months; which is why we recommend that kittens be tested for FeLv when adopted.  For indoor cats we recommend vaccinating for 2 years then re-evaluating the risk factors.

  1. Rabies:

Though rabies is not very common, it is almost 100% fatal once symptoms occur.  Also, because of the potential for transmission to your family and friends, it is an essential part of the feline vaccine program.

. . . and the WHEN of it.


8 weeks                 FVRCP, FeLV

12 weeks              FVRCP, FeLV

16 weeks              FVRCP, Rabies


1 year                      FVRCP, FeLV, Rabies

2 years               Start FVRCP every 3year; Rabies every 3 years; FeLV

annually for outdoor cats or at risk cats