Vaccines for Cats: What Shots do Cats Need

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    Dr. Sara Ochoa
    Dr. Sara Ochoa

    Author: Dr. Sara Ochoa

    Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa is a veterinarian with many years of experience and higher education. During her time in veterinary school she was able to learn form some of the most well-known veterinarians from all over the world. Sara lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies Ruby the schnoodle, and Bam-Bam her bunny. Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa has a passion and love for animals that makes her a wonderful asset to our team.

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  • Updated on: 01/11/2021

Have you just adopted a new cat? At your first vet visit with your cat, they will want to give your cat vaccination to help keep them healthy. Many viruses can cause your cat to be very sick. Certain vaccinations will help protect your cat from these diseases. The basic vaccines your veterinarian will recommend for you to get for your cat for them to stay healthy and happy. This article will cover the basic vaccines that your cat will need, what these viruses do, and why you need to vaccinate your cat for these diseases.

basic vaccines needed for catsRyan McGuire

What Shots do Cats need?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends that all cats receive the following vaccines:


Panleukopenia is like the distemper virus seen in dogs. It causes fever, lethargy, sneezing, and discharge from the eyes and nose. This virus can affect kittens and can potentially be deadly.

Feline Herpes Virus

Feline herpes is also known as rhinotracheitis. This causes upper respiratory signs in cats, such as a watery nose and eyes. These signs can progress to more severe airway problems.


Calicivirus is a highly contagious virus that also is responsible for many upper respiratory diseases seen in cats. This disease causes sneezing and discharge from the eyes and nose. It also causes lesions in your cat’s mouth. Sometimes calicivirus can be deadly.

Rabies Vaccine

A rabies vaccine is required at least every 1 to 3 years, depending on your local laws. Rabies is a deadly virus that is transmitted via bite wounds from infected animals to a healthy animal. Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabies and is always fatal. 

How often does do Cats need Vaccines?

Vaccination schedules will differ based on where you live and how old your cat is. Younger cats will need vaccines more often than adult or older cats.

cat vaccines@freepik / Freepik

Vaccinating Kittens

Kittens will need vaccines starting at 6 weeks of age. They will receive a booster vaccine every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Rabies vaccine will only be given once during this time between 12 and 16 weeks. The exact age your cat can get a rabies vaccine will depend on your local laws. Before your cat is 6 weeks old, they have antibodies that they received from their mother when they were nursing. These antibodies start to decrease around 6 weeks of age, so they need vaccines to booster their immune system.

Vaccinating Adults

Once your cat is an adult, they will only need vaccines once a year. What vaccines they will need each year will depend on your local laws and what virus are common for your area.

What is the 3 in 1 Vaccine?

A 3 in 1 vaccine is a vaccine for panleukopenia, herpes, and calicivirus. These are the 3 most common pathogens that your kitten could easily be exposed to all in one vaccine. This is also the one vaccine that your cat would receive each year to keep them protected from these viruses.

How much do Vaccines Cost for Cats?

The vaccines that your cat will need will depend on your cat’s lifestyle. Cats that are outdoors will need a 3 in 1 vaccine, Rabies vaccines, and Feline Leukemia vaccines. Feline leukemia is a highly contagious virus that your cat can catch from stray cats that they fight with outside. If you have a multi-cat household, your cat will need more vaccines than houses that have that just has one cat. If you adopt a new cat, make sure that your current cat is up to date on their vaccines before bringing the new cat home.

what shots do cats need and how much do they costRyan McGuire

The cost of vaccines will differ depending on where you live. Some cities have low-cost vaccine clinics a few times a year. These would save you a little bit of money; however, they are usually at inconvenient times for many people. Your veterinarian can give you the cost of all needed vaccines for your cat. You should spend about $100 to $300+ at these visits, depending on what all vaccines and testing your veterinarian recommends.

What vaccines do indoor Cats need yearly?

Indoor cats do not need as many vaccines as cats that got outside. Indoor cats will still have to have a rabies vaccine. This is usually a state or local law that you must follow. The reason that indoor cats need vaccines is that rabies can be carried by bats that can easily fly into your house and bite your cat or your cat could accidentally get outside one day. Many indoor-only cats will not be vaccinated for feline leukemia since they have no way to contact any other stray cats. Some people will still want to vaccinate their cat for this virus just in case they get outside they will be protected.

READ MORE: How to Treat a Pregnant Cat

Do indoor Cats need to be Vaccinated?

Indoor cats do need to be vaccinated.  When your cat is a kitten, they will need their initial vaccines to make sure that they start off their lives with a healthy immune system free of any potentially deadly diseases.  They will also need a rabies vaccine at the time intervals required by your local law. After the initial vaccines, discuss with your veterinarian what vaccines your cat should get every year.  Some vaccines only need a booster vaccine every 2 to 3 years.

If you have just adopted a new cat, there are many different vaccines that they may need. These vaccines can all depend on your cat, the location you live in, and your local laws. When your cat is at their appointment, your veterinarian can discuss all the pros and cons of each vaccine. This will help you decide what vaccine your cat needs each year or if your cat needs that vaccine at all. Vaccination is a way to help keep your cat happy and healthy so they can live a long, disease-free life.

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