What Vaccinations Have You Given Your Ragdoll Cat?

Caymus on the Scratch LoungeVaccinations and Ragdoll Cats

A reader recently asked me about vaccinations and wondered if we could have a discussion on the blog.  I thought it was a great idea.

So, what vaccinations have you given your Ragdoll kitty and why?

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I usually ask people inquiring to read this article by Dr. Jean Hofve – Vaccines for Cats

Please see our interview with Dr. Jean Hofve here or listen to the audio of it below in this YouTube video:

I did give my cats Rabies shots and my mom did too – specifically, Purevax, by Merial. I switched to a more holisitic veterinarian when my cats were 11 years old, and she no longer wanted to vaccinate them. I am not sure what I would do if I were to do it over – I would probably still vaccinate and then titer thereafter. It’s still required by law that they have it yearly, but if I feel they’re protected from rabies, then we’re good.

Seal Mitted with a blaze Ragdoll cat Murphy 15 years old at KC Cat Clinic Veterinarian IMG_3211

On thing I appreciated about our old all cat was that they put a different vaccination in each leg – I think it was right leg for the rabies vaccine because of “R” for right and rabies. And then “leukemia” was left leg. Years ago, vaccines used to be given on the back, close to the shoulders – so if a tumor developed, there was nothing you could do. But by giving them in a leg, if that leg gets a tumor, then they know it was a rabies vaccine that caused it and the leg can be cut off and the life saved. They do this based on the AAFP Standards found here.

There was a discussion some time ago on Facebook where a reader asked a similar question and that discussion can be found here.

Please let us know what you do and why in regard to vaccinations for your cats.

Some things to consider in your response:

  • killed vs. modified live and your experience
  • no vaccines at all?
  • Rabies for people in the USA and where it’s required by law

Why Vaccinate Your Kitten?

Ragdoll Kittens as babies with vaccinations.

The main reason is to keep your kitten safe and reduce the risk of disease. Vaccination is absolutely crucial for kittens because without it, they are exposed to viral diseases that can (and usually are) lethal to them. 

The three main viral diseases that constitute threats to kittens are feline panleukopenia, feline rhinotracheitis, feline leukemia. After they are vaccinated, the kittens develop the antibodies they need to fight these viruses, should they come into contact with them.

Kittens are also exposed to other diseases like Feline Viral Immunodeficiency caused by the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), for which there is no vaccine.

You want to work with your trusted veterinarian and breeder to know which ones are best for your cat. There are many differing opinions when it comes to vaccines with humans, as well as with pets. So that’s why it’s best to rely on trusted opinions and do your own research.

Main Kitten Vaccinations

As mentioned above, there are three major diseases that kittens are exposed to, which cause very advanced symptoms and may even be fatal. These are the main target of a kitten’s vaccination schedule, which usually begins when the kitten is 10-12 weeks of age.

Feline Panleukopenia

Feline Infectious Enteritis, Feline Parvoviral Enteritis, Feline Distemper, Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious infectious disease that affects kittens most severely. Symptoms include high fever, depression, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration. It is caused by the feline parvovirus (FPV) and it is the feline equivalent of the canine parvoviral disease.

This virus is extremely resistant, which makes the disease widespread all throughout the US and the entire world. Vaccination is the only way to contain the disease and to protect kittens from becoming infected. Adult cats can get panleukopenia as well, but this happens far less often.

Feline Respiratory Disease Complex

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Feline Calicivirus

The Feline Respiratory Disease Complex is a set of illnesses targeting the respiratory system, which are caused by different causal agents, and that may cause infection either alone or together. The main disease in the complex are Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis caused by the Feline Herpesvirus Type 1 (FHV-1) and the infectious disease caused by the Feline Calicivirus (FCV). 

The main symptoms include fever, difficulty breathing, the inflammation of the respiratory system – with sneezing and severe rhinitis, eye inflammation and conjunctivitis, excessive tear production, salivation, and mouth sores.

Feline Leukemia

Caused by the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), this is one of the most severe infectious diseases because it leads to advanced immunosuppression, which exposes the cat to infections and other viral diseases. 

Affected cats also develop anemia and/or cancer (especially lymphoma and leukemia), which combined with the suppression of the immune system, is usually fatal. While FeLV affects cats of all ages, kittens present the highest risk of developing the disease.

Like Dr. Jean Hofve explained in the interview linked above, the vaccination for these three diseases begins at the age of 10-12 months, but until they get to that age, they may still be exposed. It is absolutely crucial that kittens are protected in the first few weeks of their lives. 

Even once the first vaccine is administered, it still takes about two weeks until the kittens actually develop the antibodies they need, which means that they have to be protected at least for the first 14 weeks of life. Then, they get the second vaccine and two weeks after that, they are protected. One year later, they will also receive a booster shot.

How to Protect Kittens Before They Are Vaccinated

Bluedreamer Ragdoll Kittens Kansas City

Since the viruses causing the diseases mentioned above are so widespread, kittens must stay indoors until they are vaccinated to reduce the risk of exposure as much as possible. Always wash your hands before handling the kittens and limit their contact with people, and especially other cats, as much as possible. 

They should, however, remain close to their mothers because the milk she feeds them during the first weeks of life has an essential role in transmitting immunity from the mother to her kittens. Once the cat has completed its vaccination for the main infectious diseases, it is free to roam the house and other spaces.

Deworming the Kitten Before the Vaccine Is Crucial

Kittens often develop intestinal parasites at very early ages. If the kittens are contaminated with intestinal parasites when they are vaccinated, then the efficacy of the vaccination may be affected, and they might not produce enough antibodies. It is very important that kittens are dewormed before the vaccination is started. Then, cats need to be dewormed twice a year for the rest of their lives as a preventative measure. 

The Rabies Virus

The law in the US (it might vary by city and state – so be sure to check with your veterinarian on the laws in your area) and many other countries in the world states that cats must receive the rabies vaccination once a year.

The rabies vaccine is the last one in the kittens’ vaccination schedule and then, as adult cats, they receive a booster each year. Considering that rabies is lethal to humans, limiting the disease is a worldwide priority.

Allergic Reactions to Vaccines

While this is not common, some kittens and cats develop allergic reactions to vaccines. It is possible for the cat to be allergic to one of the substances in the vaccine, which may even be an excipient. 

This is why kittens (and cats, this can occur at any age) must be closely monitored after administering the vaccine. An allergic reaction typically occurs in the first 15-30 minutes after receiving the vaccine and manifests with noticeable facial swelling, swelling of the paws, difficulty breathing. 

Keep in mind that this is a medical emergency. The cat must be taken back to the vet clinic where it will receive immediate intravenous treatment. Fortunately, the treatment acts quickly and the cat will be fine in no time. 

Adult Cat Vaccination Schedule

As Dr. Jean Hofve says in the interview above, the vaccination schedule for adult cats depends entirely on what the doctor recommends. While the vast majority of veterinarians recommend yearly boosters, this may not always be necessary.

On her site, Dr. Hofve explains that a more suitable approach would be for the doctors to test the level of antibodies produced by the adult cat for each of the targeted diseases and recommend booster shots only if and when these levels are low.

She also mentions that the FVRCP vaccine targeting feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and feline panleukopenia, which is one of the most commonly used vaccines for boosters, is cultured and grown on feline kidney cells. By administering this vaccine repeatedly, the risk of inducing the production of antibodies that bind to kidney tissues is significantly increased and may put the cat in danger.

Moreover, these three diseases are mainly dangerous to kittens, but far less or not at all to adults, administering booster shots may not be necessary.

As for the rabies vaccine, this is not optional in most US states but mandated by the law. Adult cats must receive a rabies vaccine once year, so this one has to be part of any vaccination schedule.


Still have questions about vaccinating cats or kittens? Then take a look as we go through the most commonly asked ones.

How much does it cost to get a kitten vaccinated?

While the specific prices depend strictly on the internal policies of each veterinary clinic, vaccinating a cat is an inexpensive procedure. To get specific details, contact your vet office.

Keep in mind that vaccinating kittens is crucial for their health. Should they develop any of the infectious diseases mentioned above, they may be severely affected or even die. Not to mention that treating them, when possible, would lead to a much bigger vet bill.

What shots does a 3-month-old kitten need?

The core vaccines that a 3-month old kitten needs are for feline panleukopenia, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, feline, feline leukemia, and rabies. Then, when the cat is older, the doctor may expand the kitten vaccination schedule. They might recommend some extra vaccines, depending on the epidemiological circumstances.

What shots do indoor kittens need?

Indoor kittens need the same vaccines that outdoor kittens do – for feline panleukopenia, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, feline, feline leukemia, and rabies. It is a common misconception that indoor cats do not need to be vaccinated because they do not go outside.

While the cat may not go outside itself, its owners do and they can bring in contaminated material on their shoes, clothes, or even hands if they’ve been in contact with an infected animal. These infectious diseases are very contagious, so the owner would not know that they are putting the kitten at risk.

Rabies is not a disease that the owners can expose the kitten to, but there have been many cases when contaminated animals like bats or rats have made their way into the house where the kitten is and put the cat at risk by biting them.

How many vaccinations do kittens need?

This ultimately depends on what the doctor recommends, based on the identified epidemiological conditions. For instance, if the kitten is or may be exposed to specific infectious diseases, then it might need some additional vaccinations.

If you are planning to travel with your cat (which is only legally possible once the kitten has completed the main vaccinations and has received a rabies vaccine), then make sure to talk to your vet about specific vaccines it might need to stay safe from local diseases.
For example, if you are traveling to the Mediterranean – Italy, Spain, Greece – then your cat needs a vaccine for leishmaniasis, which is transmitted by infected sandflies (which are often found in that area and climate). Please note that leishmaniasis is not found in the United States, according to the CDC.  

Further Reading…

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Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,

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  1. cathybower@yahoo.com says:

    I’ve just recently brought two kittens into my life after years of not having a cat and was very concerned about vaccinations. I’m a pediatric nurse and do believe in the benefit of vaccines but was cautious about them for our two children as well. They ARE fully vaccinated but I only allowed vaccines to be spaced by 4-6 weeks when they were “due” for multiple vaccines. When our beloved terrier was a puppy I researched a lot and changed things for him as well. I knew from talking with my sister who has “always” had cats that they are even more sensitive to vaccines. I read the most current AAFP guidelines, the addendum to them and then read this http://www.catinfo.org/?link=vaccines that was referenced in Natural cat Care blog when I started looking into nutrition more deeply. I am planning to follow Dr. Pierson’s recommendations which are a “tweek” of the AAFP guidelines and make perfect scientific sense to me. Thus far my 5.5 month old Siamese mix has had two FVRCP vaccines (one at 8 weeks and one at 18 weeks) and will get a titer in a year before MAYBE vaccinating. He’s scheduled for rabies at 6 months. That’s all I plan to vaccinate for. Our 10-11 week old Ragdoll mix? had two FVRCP vaccines before I rescued him and won’t get another until he’s 18 weeks or so then a titer in a year. If the boys have good titers I may never vaccinate again for FVRCP. Same with rabies for the youngest; not until 6 months old. The AAFP also addresses SITE of injection which is very important to note because of injection site sarcoma in cats. These are INDOOR kittens. I may be able to afford cat safe fencing in the spring but that will be only outdor exposure with supervision. I also own a 22 year old Arabian horse; we minimally vaccinate and get titer for one specific virus. Based on that yearly titer I haven’t vaccinated for “Strangles” for probably 5 years.

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