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5 Must-Have Vaccine Shots for Outdoor Cat Health

5 Must-Have Vaccine Shots for Outdoor Cat Health

A cat may be known to have nine lives, but it still needs care. Whether your fur baby lives indoors, outdoors, or both, staying up-to-date on its health and well-being is crucial. Vaccines for outdoor cats are especially important since their disease risk is much higher than an indoor pet. Keep reading to learn which vaccine shots for outdoor cat health are needed. 

Let’s get started.

The Adventurous Life of an Outdoor Cat

An outdoor cat lives in the playground that is your yard and the surrounding community. Whether you live on a farm or in the suburbs, there’s always something for a cat to hunt, chase, and play with. And you’re likely to find an outdoor cat all sprawled out, lounging in the sun from time to time.

Some cats live outdoors by the owner’s choice. While there are also feral cats that are undomesticated and are considered strays that prefer not to be handled. Regardless, outdoor cats are typically independent and thrive in the environment presented to them.

Outdoor cats like to hunt, which makes vaccinations all the more needed against exposure to disease-ridden rodents.

People have domesticated outdoor cats for various reasons, but the main reason is usually their hunting skills. For example, farmers often have outdoor cats to keep unwanted rodent populations under control. Mice and rats can get into animal feed and make a mess, but cats work hard to get rid of them.

The skills of an outdoor cat can be very useful, but the downside is that they are more at risk for various health issues. Because they’re exposed to weather, plants, other animals, and more, they can more easily come in contact with parasites and infectious diseases. That’s why vaccines for outdoor cats are just as necessary, if not more, than for indoor cats.

Should Outdoor Cats Be Vaccinated? 

Veterinarians strongly encourage vaccines for outdoor cats. They help protect felines from diseases that can lead to serious health issues and death. Common diseases that can arise include rabies, feline leukemia, and distemper. 

Vaccinating your cat is vital for its health and safety. While some may be averse to vaccines in general, animals don’t have the ability to think and stay away from things that may harm them as we do. So, prioritizing your cat’s health can save them from suffering. 

Do Cats Need Vaccines If They Stay Indoors?

Like outdoor cats, indoor cats also need to be vaccinated. While the risk of disease for an indoor cat is less than for one that roams through fields, farms, and wilderness, it’s still vital to get the necessary vaccinations. They are still exposed to pathogens carried in on items, people, insects, and creatures that may venture inside your home.

Cats become part of our families, and we want them to have long lives. So, access to modern medicines and veterinary care can increase their quality of life. 

Pro Tip: Whether your cat is an outdoor cat or an indoor cat, you should learn some cat first aid basics for any small injuries that may occur in daily life.

5 Must-Have Vaccine Shots for Outdoor Cat Health

There are five must-have vaccine shots for outdoor cat health. Be sure to put these on your list to discuss with the vet at your cat’s next visit. Let’s examine each vaccine to learn what they are and why they’re important.

1. Rabies Vaccine for Cats (Ra or Rab)

The rabies vaccine for cats prevents the viral infection, rabies, that can be transmitted from animals to humans. It’s the most important vaccine because the disease is fatal to mammals. And cats and dogs are required to have a rabies vaccine in most states due to its severity.

The vaccine should be given every one to three years. Consult with your veterinarian on the schedule for your cat.

2. Feline Leukemia Vaccine (FeLV)

Feline leukemia is a viral disease spread from an infected cat through saliva or blood. It can’t be transmitted to humans but the disease is fatal to cats, as there’s no cure. Infected cats typically survive for only 2-4 years after diagnosis with proper care. So, getting the vaccine can literally save your fur baby’s life. In addition, cats can be born with feline leukemia, so we recommend having kittens tested.

The vaccine is to be given to all cats up to one year old. And outdoor cats, who are at higher risk of fighting with another cat who may have the disease, should receive annual booster shots.


The FVRCP vaccine prevents feline rhinotracheitis virus, feline calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia virus or feline distemper. Each can spread from cat to cat but is not transmittable to humans. The diseases can vary in severity and symptoms.

The vaccine is a series of shots given every three to four weeks until a kitten is 16 weeks old. Then, a booster should be given at one year old and every three years after.

4. Feline Herpesvirus Type I (FHV, FHV-1)

Feline herpesvirus type 1 can be covered under the FVRCP vaccine. But it’s important to point out that it can be given as its own separate vaccine. The virus is highly contagious and causes an upper respiratory infection in cats that are typically spread through sharing litter boxes or water bowls. Some cats can get over the virus, but it often affects them for life with eye problems.

5. Chlamydophila Felis

Chlamydophila felis is a bacterial infection that leads to severe conjunctivitis. You can get the vaccine to prevent chlamydophila included with a distemper vaccine. Ask your vet what the best course of action is for your cat.

feline walking outdoors
Your vet will have recommendations for your outdoor cat’s vaccination shots schedule.

When Should My Outdoor Cat Vaccines Be Given?

Outdoor cat vaccine schedules will depend on what is and what schedule your veterinarian recommends. You can plan on most kittens receiving vaccinations before one year old. And booster shots are typically needed for some vaccines, including rabies.

Are There Any Side Effects from Vaccines for Outdoor Cats?

Similar to when you get a vaccination, there can be side effects for cats. The most common side effects from vaccines for outdoor or indoor cats include soreness, swelling, fever, loss of appetite, or redness at the injection site. These are usually temporary, and nothing to worry about; however, observing your cat after vaccines is a good idea. 

In rare cases, serious side effects such as anaphylaxis, allergic reactions, and neurological reactions can occur. Discuss any potential side effects with your veterinarians so that you know any risks and what to look for.

In addition, veterinarians are now recommending “non-adjuvanted” vaccines for felines. They’re formulated to allow for safe inoculation with little risk of tumor formation. Ask your vet about them to determine if they’re right for your cat.

cat in snow licking car antenna
Outdoor cats are exposed to the elements and other animals, so getting them tested, treated, and vaccinated will prolong their lives.

What Other Treatments or Tests Should an Outdoor Cat Get?

Keeping your cat safe from the great outdoors is a top priority. So, let’s look at some other treatments and tests you may want to consider to prevent health problems in the future.

Testing for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) 

Kittens should be tested for feline leukemia as soon as possible. And it’s recommended to get it done annually. It’s a simple blood test. In addition, anytime a cat is sick, it should be tested. 

The virus can be contracted through sharing food and water bowls, licking another cat, mating, or fighting with another cat in which there may be blood or saliva. Since there’s no treatment for feline leukemia getting your cat vaccinated is crucial. And outdoor cats have the most risk factors.

Testing for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Testing for feline immunodeficiency virus can be done alongside the feline leukemia test. While there’s a vaccine for feline leukemia, the vaccine for feline immunodeficiency virus is only recommended for high-risk cats. This is only because the vaccine often turns the screening tests positive. We recommend checking with your veterinarian to determine what’s right for your cat.

Anti-Parasitic Treatments

Outdoor cats are likely exposed to parasites regularly. From ticks and fleas to intestinal parasites they may get after hunting or killing a rodent. This is why testing for parasites and deworming should be a regular part of vet visits for your outdoor cat.

Pro Tip: During your next vet visit, ask if your outdoor cat should take any vitamins or additional nutrients to help keep them active and healthy.

outdoor cat laying on table
Outdoor cats can live long lives with preventative health care and vaccinations.

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Getting Your Outdoor Cat Vaccinated

Your veterinarian is the best person to help you determine which vaccines your outdoor cat needs. Protecting your feline family member from all it may encounter outside is important for its health and your other pets. 

Is your outdoor cat vaccinated?

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Petrics was born out of a love of helping animals and their owners live life to their fullest! Established in 2022, Petrics was founded by Caitlin and Tom Morton of Mortons on the Move, Discovery TV Show hosts and successful RV Travel Experts. They are a full-time RVing couple who loved traveling with their beloved rescue dogs. This Petrics team strives to share the most interesting questions answered, the most entertaining news and culture, and the most inspiring rescue stories. Additionally, our mission is to give back to animal welfare organizations so they can continue their good work in saving the constant stream of animals in need. In fact, 5% of all profits from Petrics are donated to animal-saving initiatives!

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