What Are the Most Common Cat Vaccinations to Get?

Work with your vet to determine the best vaccination schedule for your cat.
Work with your vet to determine the best vaccination schedule for your cat. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Vaccines play an important role in protecting your cat from infectious diseases. Vaccines work by preparing your cat’s immune system to protect the body from an invasion of disease-causing pathogens. There are several vaccinations available, but some are more common than others. Discuss your options with your veterinarian to set up a vaccination schedule that is appropriate for your cat.


The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine notes that rabies is becoming an increasing threat to cats. In fact, the number of cat rabies cases reported in the United States exceeds that of all other domestic animals. Because rabies can be fatal -- to both animals and humans that are bitten by rapid animals -- the rabies vaccination is required by law in many states. The rabies vaccine may be good for one or three years, depending on which type your cat receives. It is recommended that kittens get the rabies vaccine between 8 and 12 weeks of age. Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best option for you.


Feline panleukopenia, more commonly referred to as feline distemper, is a deadly viral disease that causes death in a high percentage of infected cats. Some cats with distemper experience loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, fever, diarrhea and vomiting, but many die suddenly without exhibiting any physical symptoms, according to Cornell University. Prior to vaccinations, distemper used to claim the lives of thousands of cats each year. Because distemper vaccines are highly effective in protecting cats from infection, they are highly recommended. The first panleukopenia shot should be given to kittens between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex

The feline vital respiratory disease complex vaccination targets the feline herpes virus and the feline calicivirus -- the viruses that are said to be responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all infectious feline upper respiratory diseases, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Most cats are exposed to both of these viruses at some point, and once a cat is infected, he serves as a carrier that can pose a risk to other cats. Because of this, the vaccination combination is recommended for all cats. Kittens may be vaccinated as early as 6 weeks of age.

Feline Leukemia

The feline leukemia virus, or FeLV, is the No. 1 viral killer of cats. The virus can suppress the immune system and cause cancer, which can prove to be fatal. Outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats are at the highest risk of contracting the virus, which is spread through bite wounds and casual contact with other infected cats. Because of this, the vaccination is recommended for outdoor cats or cats who will have exposure to other infected cats. The first FeLV vaccination should be given to kittens around the age of 8 weeks.

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