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Vaccines for Cats

Which Vaccinations are Commonly Given to Cats?


Sophia the Cat Stretching by kaibara87 on Flickr

Sophia Stretching

by kaibara87 on Flickr

Vaccines are an important part of preventative health care for our pets. Cats are commonly vaccinated against some the following diseases. Core vaccines should be given to all cats, whereas non-core vaccines are used on a case-by-case basis based on risk factors dictated by your cat's lifestyle (especially whether your cat has access to the outdoors) and household situation (e.g., the health of other cats in the household).

Editor's note: With the exceptions of legal requirements for rabies or vaccination requirements for kennels or travel, many veterinarians recommend vaccinating adult pets every three years, as per UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital Canine And Feline Vaccination Guidelines. It should be noted however, that an annual (yearly) examination is still strongly recommended to make sure your pet remains in optimal health.

See also: American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Vaccination Guidelines

Core Vaccines

A fatal viral disease that attacks the nervous system and that is contagious to humans. Read more about rabies.

A virus that causes rhinotracheitis and is one of the causes of upper respiratory infections in cats. Upper respiratory infections can be severe and/or chronic. Read more about feline upper respiratory infections.

The other main virus that contributes to upper respiratory infections in cats.


A viral disease which can be fatal, especially in younger cats. Often called feline distemper, this virus causes vomiting and diarrhea. Read more about panleukopenia.

Non-Core Vaccines

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
A virus that can cause a variety of severe conditions, including anemia, suppression of the immune system, and cancer.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
This virus causes suppression of the immune system.

The routine use of this vaccine is questionable, largely because the vaccine is only useful against cats not previously exposed to coronavirus. It is listed as "not generally recommended" by the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Combination Vaccines - What do all those letters mean?
The core group of viruses for which cats are routinely vaccinated are often combined into a single shot as a combination vaccine (except the rabies vaccine, which is given separately). This vaccine is often referred to by a set of initials: FVRCP. What do those initials mean?

  • FVR = Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (caused by a herpesvirus)
  • C = Calicivirus
  • P = Panleukopenia

Please note: this article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

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