Eight Essential Cat Vaccinations

There are 8 cat vaccinations recommended by The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) to be given on a cat vaccination schedule. 4 core vaccines are recommended included distemper, rhinotracheitic and feline calcivirus. 4 other vaccines are also recommended depending on the lifestyle of you and your cat.

No vaccination is 100% effective but they all greatly reduce the risk of disease for your cat. For the 3 core vaccines, the AAFP recommended cat vaccination schedule is once every 3 years unless your cat is at high risk. The manufacturers, however, recommend once annually, and many states require once annually for licensing purposes. You and your vet can decide which is best for your cat.

Distemper Or Panleukopenia

Distemper is an upper respiratory infection. It is spread from cat to cat via water or food dishes or sharing any object that may have infected saliva on it. Cats who share litter boxes can also pass the disease from one another. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, loss of coordination and weakness. Many cats die from this illness.

Distemper vaccination is one of the core vaccines. It should be given once a year as it provides immunity for one year. The risk of your cat having an adverse reaction is low to moderate.


This is another upper respiratory disease with many similar characteristics to feline distemper. It can cause discharge from the eyes and nose and is highly contagious via sneezing and shared dishes and litter pans. This core vaccine is effective but may not prevent a cat from infection or becoming a carrier. The risk of an adverse reaction is moderate. The vaccine should be given once a year.

Feline Calicivirus and Rabies

These 2 vaccines are the final 2 core vaccines. The feline calicivirus vaccine should be given every year. It prevents acute signs of the disease but it may or may not prevent a cat getting infected or becoming a carrier. The risk of adverse reactions is low to moderate.

The rabies vaccine provides a high degree of immunity and is required by many states for licensure. The type of vaccine will determine the recommended vaccination schedule. The risks associated with the vaccine are low to moderate.

Four Other Recommended Vaccines

Four other vaccines may be recommended for your cat. FeLV, or feline leukemia, is recommended for all cats that go outside. FeLV is not recommended for cats that stay indoors and have no exposure to other cats. FeLV is recommended for all kittens because their immune systems are fragile, and their lifestyle can change to where they start going outside. Many veterinarians also recommend vaccinating against feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), ringworm and Chlamydia. Choosing the Chlamydia vaccine depends on the prevalence of the disease in your area and what other cats are in the household.