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How do indoor cats get sick?

Should I Get My Indoor Cat Vaccinated?

We understand that it can be tempting to skip your indoor cat vaccinations, because they don’t go outdoors. However, it is very important for your cat’s health that you keep up with their shots, today the Argyle vets explain why.

About Cat Vaccinations

There is several serious diseases that indoor cats develop every year, that’s why it’s essential to vaccinate you kitty to keep them safe from these preventable conditions. It’s also very important to stay up to date with your cat’s booster shots to keep them protected after their first kitten vaccinations.

Your cat gets booster shots to help them stay immune following the vaccines they were given as a kitten, because they wear off. Each booster shot/ vaccine for indoor cats has a schedule, at your veterinary appointments your vet will let you know when it is time for your furry companions next round of booster shots.

Why Your Indoor Cat Needs to be Vaccinated

Many states have laws that make certain vaccinations mandatory for cats, even if you think your indoor kitty doesn’t require them. As an example, lots of states have a law stating that all cats must be given the rabies vaccine by the time they are 6 months old. After your cat receives their vaccine your vet will provide you with a certificate that states your cat was given the required shots.

There is 2 types of vaccines that are available for cats one is ‘core vaccines’ the other is ‘lifestyle vaccines’.

Veterinarians recommend that all indoor cats should be given core vaccinations to keep them protected from a large range of extremely contagious diseases, so they are safe from illnesses if they escape from your house, go for a grooming or if they have to stay at a boarding facility, etc.

Core Vaccines for Cats

You cat should be given core vaccinations to keep them protected from the following list of common, severe feline illnesses:

  • Rabies rabies kill lots of mammals every year, even humans. This vaccine is mandatory for cats in the majority of states.
  • Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) — Often called the “distemper” shot, this is a combination vaccine that guards cats from feline viral panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis and calicivirus.
  • Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) — This ubiquitous virus is highly contagious, and is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections and can infect cats for life. It spreads when food bowls and litter boxes are shared with other cats, through direct contact or by inhalation of sneeze droplets. Sometimes cats will shed this condition where persistent cases of FHV can create eye problems.

Lifestyle (Non-Core) Vaccines for Cats

Some cats will need lifestyle/ non-core vaccinations depending on the lifestyle they live. Your veterinarian will let you know which ones your kitty should get. This type of vaccine protects you cat from the following conditions:

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) — These vaccines usually are only recommended for cats that are outdoors often and protects them against viral infections which are contracted from close contact exposure.
  • Bordetella — A highly contagious bacteria that causes upper respiratory infections. Your vet might suggest this this vaccine if you are taking your cat to a boarding kennel or groomer.
  • Chlamydophila felis — This vaccination is often part of the distemper combination vaccine. It protects your cat from Chlamydia which is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis.

Getting Your Kitten Vaccinated

We recommended bringing your kitten in for their first round of vaccinations when they are between six and eight weeks old. Below is a series of vaccinations your kitten should given in three to four week intervals (til they are about 16 weeks old).

Kitten Vaccination Schedule

First visit (6 to 8 weeks)

  • Fecal exam for parasites
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Review nutrition and grooming
  • Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia

Second visit (12 weeks)

  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • First feline leukemia vaccine
  • Examination and external check for parasites
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia

Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)

  • Second feline leukemia vaccine
  • Rabies vaccine

Booster Shots

Your adult cat should receive their booster shots every year or once every three years depending on the vaccine. Your vet will inform you of your cat’s vaccination (booster shot) schedule.

Vaccine Protection

Your kitten will not be fully vaccinated until they are roughly 12 — 16 weeks old, which is when they should have received all of their vaccinations. Once the initial vaccinations are given your kitty will be safe from all of the diseases and illnesses the vaccinations cover.

We recommend keeping your kitten in restricted, low-risk areas such as your backyard if you want to let them outside before they have been fully vaccinated from the diseases mentioned above.

Potential Vaccine Side Effects

A large majority of cats wont experience side effects from their shots. If a reaction does occur, they tend to be minor and last only last a short period of time. However, in rare situations some serious reactions could happen such as:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Lameness
  • Hives
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe lethargy
  • Redness or swelling around the injection site

If you think your cat is developing side effects from a vaccine contact your vet immediately! Your veterinarian will assist you in determining if your cat requires special care or a follow up appointment.

What Can I Catch from My Cat?

Anyone who’s watched their cat go through a bout of vomiting or a case of the sniffles has probably wondered: Can I get sick from my cat? Is what my cat has contagious?

The answer is yes. There are actually a number of diseases you can contract catch from your cat, known broadly as zoonotic diseases. The word “zoonotic” is used to describe any disease that is transmittable from animals to humans. The best known and most feared example of a zoonotic disease is rabies. Other common zoonotic diseases in cats include:

  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Ringworm
  • Salmonellosis
  • Campylobacter infection
  • Giardia
  • Cryptosporidium infection
  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Cat Scratch Disease

Cat Grabbing Finger

Yikes! Is my cat really that risky?
Now for the good news: although it’s possible to catch a zoonotic disease that’s been bothering your kitty, it’s not likely. That being said, your chance of contracting a zoonotic illness does increase if you have a compromised immune system due to a pre-existing disease or medical condition. Examples include:

  • Persons infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS
  • Pregnant women
  • Patients being treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  • Elderly people
  • People with chronic diseases or congenital immune system deficiency
  • People who have received organ/bone marrow transplants

If I’m at a higher risk, should I give my cat away?

No! It just means that you need to be extra cautious around your pet:

  • Remember your veterinarian and your physician are your best sources of information regarding zoonotic disease.
  • Keep your kitty strictly indoors! This is the best way to prevent your cat from being infected with a zoonotic disease
  • Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding vaccination, parasite testing, treatment and prevention.

Since many of the diseases on the above list are transmitted through contact with your cat’s feces, several measures can be taken to ensure that you remain safe, and most involve simple hygiene and common sense. In all instances, you want to avoid coming into direct contact with your cat’s feces. Here are some suggestions to keep yourself safe:

  • Keep your cat’s litter box away from the kitchen or other areas where you prepare or store food.
  • It might not always be possible, but ask someone who is not at significant risk for zoonotic diseases to take on litter box cleaning duty. Also, have the litter box cleaned daily. The organism that causes Toxoplasmosis, for example, takes 24 hours to become infectious.
  • Use disposable litter box liners and change them each time you clean the litter box.
  • Don’t dump litter. If you do, you could put yourself at risk of inhaling an infectious agent. Either pour the litter slowly into the trash or wrap the litter box liner tightly and securely.
  • It is ideal to clean the litter box thoroughly at least twice per month. Use hot water, and soak the litter box for several minutes. This will kill organisms like Toxoplasmosis.
  • Always wear disposable gloves when cleaning the litter box, and toss them after each wash

In addition, it is very important that you monitor your cat regularly for any signs of illness or disease and wash your hands after direct contact with your cat. And remember: if you are worried about the possibility of contracting a zoonotic disease from your pet, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

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