It’s a rite of passage of sorts when you take your kitten for his first round of vaccinations. You follow your veterinarian’s advice on the type of shots and know you did the right thing. However, you question your decision after your kitten starts acting strangely at home.
Why is your kitten acting weird after shots? Vaccinations have few risks but it’s common for a kitten to feel unwell for about 48 hours afterward. They may not want to eat or are lethargic. These are common reactions. Some kittens may be allergic to something in the shots and could have more serious side effects like vomiting, breathing issues, or diarrhea.
Read further for more information about feline vaccinations and when you should be worried.
Different Vaccine Types
A lengthy list of feline vaccines exists but that doesn’t mean your kitten needs all of them. The type of vaccines each needs depends on the kitten’s lifestyle. That includes whether they are an outside cat versus an indoor cat if you board them and whether they are around other animals.
The Core Vaccines
A group of vaccines, called core vaccines, are recommended for all kittens and cats. These are shots the American Associate of Feline Practitioners state are the best for protecting every cat from common illnesses and they include:
- Feline panluekopenia (distemper)
- Feline viral rhinotracheities
- Feline caliciviral disease
Some of these types of vaccines, like rabies, are mandated by local laws for pets.
Another group of optional vaccines recommended by the AAFP is available to felines that are exposed to certain diseases because of their lifestyle. This group is called non-core vaccines as none are required by local laws. These include:
- Feline chlamydiosis
- Feline leukemia
- Feline infectious peritonitis (coronavirus)
- Bordetellosis (recommended for those put in boarding facilities)
Some veterinarians list feline leukemia as a core vaccine while others don’t put it in that category. Officially, the AAFP lists it as a non-core, optional vaccine. Cats that associate with other cats, outside cats, or cats that go to boarding facilities are generally recommended to get it.
The third group of vaccines exists that doesn’t have AAFP’s recommendation but can be appropriate for some kittens and cats. Those are:
Like human vaccines, vaccines for cats act like an infection so the immune system kicks into gear to prevent infection. This is one reason your kitten is acting strange. They feel like they would if they actually had some of these diseases as the vaccines mimic the sickness.
How Do You Pick the Right Vaccines?
You, the pet owner, have the option of picking some of the non-core vaccines. The risk exposure needs to be evaluated to pick the correct shots for your kitten. The three things to look at are age, where you live, and your lifestyle.
Kittens have a different shot series than adult cats. Kittens get some immunity from their mothers but that wears off. Adult cats get a different series depending on whether they have ever been vaccinated or are receiving a booster shot.
The risk to your cat is evaluated in part depending on where you live. Some areas have more diseases, like Lyme disease than others. The lifestyle of your cat is crucial in deciding what vaccines are needed. An indoor cat with no contact with other felines is at low risk for feline leukemia compared to cats that spend a lot of time outside.
The Truth of Vaccines
Vaccines are the best way of protecting your kitten against disease. However, it isn’t guaranteed to prevent your cat from getting any of these diseases. It can help prevent it and reduce its severity of it. Veterinarians state vaccines also promote faster recovery should your cat get sick.
Read: Do Cats Adopt Kittens?
Are Kitten Vaccines Safe?
Many people are questioning human vaccines after a lot of different and conflicting information emerged regarding the COVID-19 shot. That is leading many to question whether it’s safe to vaccinate their pets.
All animal health safety experts, including veterinarians, say the benefits of the vaccine far outnumber the risks.
Vaccines have risks but the risk of diseases is greater and an infected animal can have an impact on humans. Rabies kills an average of 59,000 people globally yearly. The U.S. only has a few deaths, as few as one or two, because local laws require pets to be vaccinated with rabies shots.
Americans spend more than $300 million on rabies prevention alone and most agree that has made a big difference in protecting people’s health too.
The majority of the deaths, up to 95 percent, are in Asia and Africa where pet vaccines aren’t required.
The Age for First Vaccination
Kittens should be vaccinated young with the first shot scheduled when they are between six and eight weeks old. Booster shots are usually given when they are between 10 and 12 weeks old with more occurring at 14 to 16 weeks.
However, a kitten is not completely protected until 10 days after the second shot.
Some veterinarians could recommend a different schedule for some kittens depending on the age, breed, and lifestyle. Every veterinarian has their opinion on which non-core shots are the most important so be sure to talk to your vet about what’s best for your kitten.
Discussion is evolving on when cats should receive their boosters. The standard thought has always been to take your cat to the vet annually for shots. However, more vets are changing their thoughts depending on a cat’s lifestyle.
Many do not believe there should be more frequent boosters if a cat is at an increased risk of disease exposure. Most also agree that adult cats that were properly vaccinated as kittens can be re-vaccinated less often, ranging from one to three years. However, that depends on lifestyle and exposure.
Low-risk cats should get the core vaccines every three years at a minimum with some options for non-core vaccines. There are vaccines approved for three-year intervals.
When Side Effects Are Serious?
It is normal for your kitten to not feel good for a couple of days after getting a vaccination, just as humans may not feel great after a vaccination shot. You should watch it to ensure your kitten isn’t allergic to any of the vaccine ingredients.
Some common side effects to look for after any vaccination are some swelling around where the shot was given. Your pet may have a slight fever and experience some soreness. These effects should reduce after 24 hours and be gone within 48 hours.
Kittens that don’t return to normal after a couple of days probably should go back to the vet. A kitten that has trouble breathing starts throwing up or has diarrhea should be taken to a vet immediately.
Cats are exposed to many things in their lifetime, especially if they spend time outdoors. Protecting them with vaccines is important to keeping them healthy. They aren’t a guarantee that your cat will never get sick but increase their chances of remaining well.
A kitten that doesn’t respond well to a vaccine shot may be concerning but their couple of days of being unwell is a small inconvenience when compared to the protection their receive from the shot.