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What Shots Do Kittens Need? Vet-Reviewed Schedule, Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

vet giving kitten vaccine

What Shots Do Kittens Need? Vet-Reviewed Schedule, Facts & FAQ

VET APPROVED

Dr. Athena Gaffud Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Athena Gaffud

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Kittens need several vaccinations to protect them from dangerous diseases. All kittens can get these deadly diseases, no matter what their breed is. Therefore, these vaccinations are highly recommended and a part of most kitten’s early vet care. Let’s look at the recommended vaccine schedule for kittens below.

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Kitten Vaccine Schedule

The basic kitten vaccine schedule involves two core vaccinations1: FVRCP and rabies. The FVRCP includes protection against several different diseases, including rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in most places, as this disease is fatal to both cats and humans.

Your veterinarian may recommend several other vaccinations, depending on where you live and the kitten’s age. For instance, a vaccination against the feline leukemia virus. This condition affects a cat’s immune system and can significantly shorten their lifespan. It’s incurable, but it can be prevented with a vaccination.

Kittens are vaccinated about once every 3–4 weeks until they reach the age of 16–20 weeks. Typically, this looks like getting the first vaccinations at 8 weeks, followed by boosters at 12 weeks and 16 weeks.

It’s important to note that kittens aren’t protected until 7–10 days after their last booster. Therefore, it’s important not to act as if your kitten cannot get any of these diseases until well after their last vaccination.

a vet makes a subcutaneous injection to the kitten
Image Credit: Dina da, Shutterstock

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What Are the Side Effects of Kitten Vaccinations?

Kitten vaccinations are very safe, and side effects are rare. Most are very mild and don’t necessarily indicate that you shouldn’t vaccinate your kitten further. Most side effects don’t require treatment and go away on their own within a few hours to a couple of days.

The most common side effects of kitten vaccinations are:

It’s also important to note that many kittens are stressed after visiting the vet. Therefore, they may hide underneath the bed or another comfortable spot for a few hours or even a day after their vaccinations. This behavior doesn’t necessarily indicate that the cat isn’t feeling well from the vaccinations—it may just be a sign that they’re anxious about the whole ordeal.

Of course, serious reactions are possible. These include heavy breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, facial swelling, hives, and collapse. If your kitten develops these symptoms, you should contact your vet right away. Sometimes, these symptoms can indicate an allergic reaction.

How Often Does My Kitten Need Booster Shots?

Your kitten will need multiple doses of vaccination to be protected and often needs booster vaccinations on a regular basis. After the initial vaccination series, adult cats need vaccination every year or so. Immunity doesn’t last forever, and different cats often lose their protection at different times.

Therefore, vets often recommend vaccinating cats yearly—far before most cats lose protection.

Here’s a general schedule for a kitten’s booster vaccinations. However, it does depend on when the kitten gets their first vaccinations. When in doubt, always ask your vet:

  • 6–8 weeks: FVRCP required; FELV highly recommended
  • 10–12 weeks: FVRCP required; FELV highly recommended
  • 14–16 weeks: FVRCP required; rabies required (by law, usually); FELV highly recommended
  • 1-year boosters: FVRCP and rabies required
  • Every 1–3 years: FVRCP booster and rabies booster recommended

What Are the Benefits of Vaccinating a Kitten?

kitten getting vaccinated by a vet
Image Credit: Maria Sbytova, Shutterestock

There are many benefits of vaccinating a kitten, primarily to protect them from infectious diseases. Many of the conditions vaccinations prevent are deadly and difficult (or impossible) to cure. Therefore, vaccinations are the only protection your kitten may get.

Vaccinations also prevent your cat from passing these diseases to other cats. Rabies can be passed from your cat to many different animals, including humans. It has no cure, which is why vaccinations are often required by law. It saves a lot of lives by stopping the transmission at your kitten.

Furthermore, by preventing some diseases, you increase the chance of your kitten surviving other conditions. For instance, feline leukemia can affect your cat’s immune system, making them more likely to experience complications from other conditions.

Vaccinations are comparatively cheap to vet bills associated with each disease. While vaccination may only cost you $10, treating deadly conditions often costs thousands—and there is no guarantee any of these treatments will save your cat.

Therefore, it often makes sense to vaccinate your feline even if you don’t think they’re at high risk for the disease. The benefits far outweigh the potential consequences.

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How Do I Care for My Kitten After Vaccination?

You don’t have to provide much special care for your kitten after a vaccination. In many cases, the kitten won’t act any differently or display any side effects. Some kittens will feel a bit sickly, though, and they may need some extra space in the 24 hours after their vaccination.

Always monitor your kitten for side effects and contact your vet right away if you notice any serious symptoms. Many kittens may hide or develop a low-grade fever after vaccinations; these are normal and don’t require any extra care.

Keep your kitten indoors and away from other cats for at least 24 hours, especially if your other cats have compromised immune systems. While most vaccinations cannot get other cats sick, your kitten may pass on germs from the vet’s office.

Provide your kitten with their usual diet and clean water. However, don’t be surprised if your kitten doesn’t eat as much as normal. Some kittens may feel fatigued after vaccinations, so they may feel more sleepy than hungry. Furthermore, vet visits often cause anxiety for many kittens. Therefore, many kittens won’t eat for a day or so—even if they aren’t experiencing any side effects.

Give your kitten a comfortable place to rest after the vet visit. Don’t plan any outings for at least a day or so. Your kitten likely won’t want to do much for a few days. Some don’t like to interact when they’re feeling sickly, so expect some withdrawn behaviors like hiding underneath furniture.

Always follow your vet’s advice for after-vaccination care. However, this shouldn’t be much. As we’ve said, kittens often have very minor reactions, if they have any reactions at all.

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Final Thoughts

Vaccinating your kitten is essential for their overall health. These vaccinations prevent conditions that are extremely serious and often not curable. Some of these diseases, like rabies, can be spread to humans and other animals. Therefore, vaccinating against them is vital and often required by law.

Vaccinations usually start at 6–8 weeks. Your kitten will need around two rounds of boosters after their initial vaccinations, and adult cats need boosters every 1–3 years, depending on the exact vaccination.

When in doubt, we recommend speaking to your vet. Every kitten is different. Therefore, your kitten’s vaccination plan may not look exactly like the “usual”.


Featured Image Credit: Ilike, Shutterstock

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