You know you need to get your cat vaccinated when he is a kitten, but he also will need booster shots to keep him healthy. Booster shots are additional vaccines that keep his immune system ready to defend against harmful invaders. While there are some risks involved, side effects are extremely rare.
As a kitten, your cat received a round of vaccines called his core vaccinations, which are recommended for every cat. Core vaccines include rabies, distemper, feline calicivirus and feline herpes virus. These vaccines stimulate your cat’s immune system, causing it to create antibodies that can fight off harmful diseases. However, the protection only lasts so long. Eventually the levels of antibodies will be too low to stop a disease. At that point, your cat will need an additional shot of the vaccine, called a booster, to bolster antibody levels.
Booster shots, like any vaccine, are considered extremely safe. While pain at the injection site is a common side effect, there are other less common side effects. Fever and allergic reactions are rare side effects caused by a vaccine. Even more rare are tumors at the injection site or immune disease. Don’t let these extremely rare side effects scare you. According to the ASPCA, the risk posed to your cat from the disease the vaccine protects against is far greater than any possible side effects. If after a vaccine you notice your cat develops a fever, doesn’t want to eat, the injection site looks swollen or he’s vomiting, consult your vet.
Most vaccines need a booster every three years. The core vaccines for instance will provide protection for three years in cats who are at low-risk for contracting disease. Most vaccines for viral infections, such as FeLV, are good for three years. Check the laws in your area regarding the rabies vaccine; many places require an annual booster. Vaccines that protect against bacterial infection, such as chlamydia or Bordetella, offer protection for a year or less. Your vet can perform a blood test to check if the antibody levels are low and need a booster. Getting the booster at the recommended intervals usually is cheaper than having the test done.
Some cats are more at risk for picking up harmful diseases than others. This means that they should get their vaccine boosters annually and not wait every three years. If your cat spends any time outdoors or around other cats, this puts him at risk for getting infections. If your cat spends his time alone and stays indoors, he will require getting a booster every three years. Speak with your vet about a vaccine schedule that is best for your cat’s health.