What Vaccinations Have You Given Your Ragdoll Cat?
Vaccinations 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?
All products featured on the site are carefully selected by the editor of Floppycats, Jenny Dean. In addition, we may earn a small commission when you purchase something through our affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
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.
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?
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 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.
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
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.
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,
I almost lost my 4 yr old Ragdoll to a rabies shot, his reaction was so severe. I had to rush him back to the vet about an hour after the injection. They gave him an EKG, then treated him, but it was 45 minutes before he was close to being back to normal. His reaction was considered life-threatening. 20 years ago I had a young Ragdoll go into shock after getting vaccinations. He ended up at an emergency clinic overnight getting fluids and under observation, but he came out of it okay. Ann Baker firmly believed Ragdolls could not tolerate vaccines and instructed anyone who bought kittens from her not to give them. She was very adamant about it. She had some strange ideas, but maybe this was not one of them.
I’m with Patti on this. I don’t like the potentially harmful effects of vaccines, but when we go out of the country on vacation, our girls stay at the Comfy Cats kitty condos and they are required by law to have their vaccinations.!♥♥♥
Great repost, Jenny! Always an interesting discussion. Our views for Miss PSB’s lack of vaccinations beyond her kitten period haven’t changed since I originally posted them back on July 31, 2013. (Basically, we don’t vaccinate our Miss Pink Sugarbelle at all since she has gotten out of her kitten stage. She’s an indoor only kitty and we don’t travel with her or board her so her risk is very low for exposure to anything that might require her to be vaccinated. Now, if we had to travel with her or board her for some emergency reason then, of course, we’d have to get her vaccinated.)
Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3
For posts stating yearly Rabies vaccinations. Only know of every three years for animals. Here’s the info
Noted this is an older discussion brought up too.
Well, my first Ragdoll adopted in 2000 came from an FeLV negative home that advertised such in pride. Yet,they were against any vaccinations and provided peer reviewed articles from UCDavis regarding cysts and abcesses caused by too many vaccinations. He had to fly so we got his required Rabies.
Wasn’t until he was thirteen when a newcomer kitty showed up and walked in through my kitchen sliding door. Started playing with him and since she had no owner I had to get both tested for FeLV. Then I just had them both vaccinated.
Our new kitten breeder is more fixated on FIP. Even States the Ragdoll should not ever have the vaccination. I did some research and only found something substantial from Cornell. But, it also states you cannot test for FIP…so how the heck do you even know if the cat has been immunized for it? According to what I read, you can’t. The breeder can only go by honor with the purchase contract, i take it?
Either way, the same article supports the Breeders stance that FIP immunization doesn’t really work most of the time bit is better than nothing.
Apparently the kitten will be receiving a first series of immunization before he arrives to our home.
Anyone know anything substantial and recent about FIP please share.
I see that this was a prior discussion, but here’s my 2 cents worth. Although my kitties are indoor cats, they do occasionally sneak out between my rescued/retired greyhounds’ legs and the chase is on. We have a large fenced yard, so it’s not so bad, but a cat that doesn’t want to be caught is a challenge. Because of this and prior experience from years of having cats, I get mine vaccinated with whatever the vet says they need. There are too may critters – coyotes, skunks, o’possums and loose/feral animals in my rural area for me to take any chances. With the exception of one kitty (15 years old), all of mine have lived to be at least 18 years old.
Kattolio and other readers
Have been a Ragdoll cat and ASH cat owner for over 40 years. None of the kitties died from vaccines nor did they develop abcesses or cysts. If your cat develops one from a vaccine, the vet is giving too many at once and too fast. Our vet is against doing this and gives shots appropriately.
My Ragdoll of 15 years WAS the only one that I held off on until later because I didn’t know what I know now. But he was indoor only and was always around fully immunized animals. He was fine after his Rabies and FeLV series. But I will say that the vets at one time went Bonkers with giving too many shots and once I dropped him off for a tooth cleaning and he was “accidentally” given shots again!! He was already immunized!!! So do know it could happen if you like it or not. Only difference is my vet was honest.
Prior to living here I have no idea of his vaccination history of course.
When Prossimo was taken to the vet for an emergency assessment/care and before I was the official “owner”, the vet gave him the Feline Distemper vaccination.
Thank you so much for posting this – especially the link to the article by Dr. Hofve! I’ve shared this post with several friends and have printed it out to take to the vet with me. Unfortunately my state requires rabies but our breeder, who is very responsible and health conscious, said her Ragdolls had an adverse reaction. Years ago I lost a cat (a tabby) to a vaccine-associated sarcoma. And my first Ragdoll had chronic inflammation that flared up periodically – despite numerous tests the exact cause/site could not be located and it was never resolved, even after a variety of different treatments. Ultimately she died of CRF – and I am now wondering if it was due to vaccination.
Did she eat dry food?
States may ‘require’ it, but you can take a pass. I believe the risk of the regular rabies shot is much greater than the chances of indoor kitties getting rabies.
All these constant vaccinations make no sense. When is the last time you had shots?? Probably not in a long while, because that was handled when you were young and you now have immunity. Why are our animals any different?
Before giving needless vaccines, please do your research and do not blindly trust the advice of your vet. Google to read about the work of Dr. Ronald Schultz.
They are working on changing the laws to stop requiring the rabies vaccine every three years. It is a false and dangerous requirement. I am not putting the health and lives of my fur babies at stake!
I posted this on the “Buying a Ragdoll” to answer someone’s question, but I’ll put my experience here too to hopefully be helpful!
The breeder I got my boy from was also a vet and she highly recommended against any vaccinations except the core FRVCP, because ragdolls are more sensitive and commonly have bad reactions. Unfortunately, the rabies vaccination was required by law in my state – they will fine you if you take an unvaccinated animal to the vet even! So I had to give my baby the rabies vaccination and he got incredibly ill. Thanks to our lovely laws, he can’t get a medical exemption so every time he has to be drugged up with steroids and anti-inflammatories just to get his rabies booster. After these experiences, my nice, sweet boy who used to give his vet kisses now has to have mild tranquilizers before we go or he will attack the vet.
I do agree with the initial kitten FRVCP and booster, and my baby got another booster at 4 years old so I think I’m done now. If I were getting a new kitten, I would have the vet do the core, but maybe have it split into the three individual vaccinations and have them done one at a time. Then, if kitty is sensitive, you will know what vaccine did it and can try to avoid any boosters. I also will not give my boy the FeLV, FIV, or FIP even though the vet constantly tries to convince me on the FeLV one. I just don’t want to risk it after his other adverse reaction.
My Ivie is a 2 year old ragdoll who is due her next injections in September. I’ve only had her since October so this will be the first time I’ll be bringing her to get them done. I’m not sure the specifics, but her health/vet card has the stickers/names of the injections she received before. I’m planning on moving from Ireland to the Netherlands in a years time, and for the EU pet passport I will need to have her vaccinated so I guess I don’t really have a choice.
Weighing the pros/cons is so difficult. You hear horror stories happening on both sides.
My cat Wednesday who lives with my Mum and 2 other cats has never been vaccinated for anything. He gets his flea and worm treatments, and if he’s ever sick or injured I bring him to the vet, but I guess we’ve been lucky that he’s never caught anything.
I want to steal him from my mum, but that would mean getting him vaccinated before introducing him to Ivie, and I don’t know if getting his first vaccinations at age 11 would have any negative effects…
So we have two dogs (fully vaccinated) – would there be any kind of risk to the kitten if we don’t vaccinate after the kitten shots i.e. could the dogs bring home something to the kitten? Also, if we go away, I guess now I would have someone come in so I would not have to board the cat. What would the risk be if that person was from a pet service? Could they bring something in from the other animals they take care of? So many questions!
Pink Sugar has had all her kitten vaccines. However, we are not planning on her having any more in the future. Since our baby girl is an “indoor only” kitty and we don’t have lots of visitors to our place, we don’t feel the need for taking a risk and getting her other vaccines (that may eventually harm her down the road).
We did a lot of research about Raggies and vaccines and felt this was the right decision for us and our beautiful Sugar girl.
Very warmest regards,
Patti & Pink Sugar 🙂 <3
I am very wary of any vaccines past the initial kitten series. My cat is just over a year old and is due for his one-year booster but I am thinking of taking a pass on it.
He is indoor only. Any opinions on doing this?
I’m with you. See Jerri K’s response above. I think she has it right. I do know for sure – NO rabies unless kitty needs to be boarded but I am going to try like heck not to board, NO FELV, NO FIP EVER and NO FIV. My breeder is adamant about that.
Ah vaccinations … a subject I have very strong feelings about! My boys came with their first two kitten shots and got a booster at one year. At four years the older two boys had their blood drawn and we were able to see what level of protection they still had. One boy needed a booster, the other didn’t. The next year, the one who did not get a booster was tested again, and he still didn’t need a booster. Both are seven this year and neither will get anymore shots.
Rabies. My cats have never had rabies shots. Never will. It’s a law in my state. My vet agrees and doesn’t force the issue. She merely informed me that if they were to bite someone, they may need to be placed into quarantine to see if they have rabies.
Do you know if they were killed or modified live?
Jerri, if someone in this state is bitten and the pet’s owner can’t show proof of rabies vaccination, it’s an automatic death sentence for the pet! As past president of our local humane society, I’m sadly aware of the gruesome details.
Our 19 1/2 year old cat couldn’t have shots toward the end of her life because of other medication she was on but we had “titers” done proving she was still immune to rabies – just in case.
I am scared to death to give my Ragdoll the rabies shot. I read over & over how damaging it is to our pets! It is the law in Michigan to vaccinate & I don’t know how to get around it! I am getting reminder cards over & over from the vet’s office my cat is due. He is strictly indoors & has his original shots from the breeder & 1 follow up distemper after I got him. When I first took him to the vet after getting him, OMG! his technicians wanted me to shoot him up with multiple vaccines that day! I told the doc what our breeder said & he didn’t push the issue. I’m sure the next time he sees our kitty, he will want to! I have a healthy cat & don’t want to go to a sick one!
You can simply decline the rabies vaccine. If your vet gives you a hard time for your decision, find a new vet! I walked out of a vet’s office when they tried to harass me into getting the rabies vaccine. “What if a bat flies into your house?” was the question I got. No one came to arrest me, and I found a vet who supported my decision.
I tend to agree more with the crazy bat story. Is this some old wives tale BTW? Or did the original story vet out of hand by a few folks that had a few bats in their belfry?
Pulling aside the crazy concept of how a bat would even get in a home…if it did…transmission isn’t made by a bat flying by. If that was the case, a number of humans need immunization. Heck, we have an area of town where fruit bats fly freely. Not all bats have Rabies. It’s transmitted through saliva if I recall.
This bat story sounds wrong in so many ways.
I follow my vet’s advice because I trust him completely – he has taken great care of all our pets almost 25 years. Our Ragdolls got the same shots as our other kitties did and do. Most are every two years after the kitten series. We get rabies, of course – required by law and, if a pet doesn’t have it and anyone somehow gets bit there are horrible consequences!
Parvo/distemper and feline leukemia aren’t mandatory but I would take a chance having seen what those dreadful diseases do.
Modified live 12 week FCP intranasal standard kitten vaccs and they will get their 1 year booster the same way, when they are in excellent health. I would prefer a killed vaccine but it’s not available in the nasal spray method.
Luckily, my vet has a brain and doesn’t simply follow county/state regulations for rabies vaccination, and has agreed that predominantly indoor cats who have limited and controlled/supervised access to a contained garden and are never kennel-boarded do not need rabies shots.
The UC Davies report on over-vaccination of animals is extremely interesting. Ultimately, if a cat is protected with it’s kitten vaccinations and a first year booster it generally has sufficient immune response to counter any infection then I am certainly not going to stress their bodies by getting unnecessary injections that pad the veterinary practice’s coffers rather than ensure my pets’ well-being. 🙂
Hi, I was reading a post yesterday about the lady whose ragdoll died of kidney failure, and I was surprised at how it happened to so many of you.
So I would like to say one thing, DO NOT OVERVACCINATE your pets. It is very bad for them! This thing about yearly vaccins is pure cr**. This is just a way for vets and phamaceutical companies to make money off of you.
Think about it, do you get yearly hepatitis C shots? No, because your immune system is not forgetful, it remembers shots, just like cats’!
Also, for indoor cats only why would you give all sorts of shots for deseases they’re never gonna be exposed to???
Here’s a link that opened my eyes about shots. To answer Jenny’s question, my cat didn’t get any shots, he’s 7 months old now, indoor only.
McDreamy has only ever gotten his first kitten vaccine…nothing since and he’s 5 years old. I often wonder if I should get him vaccinated, especially because he gets outside every so often. The breeder where I got him said it can be dangerous to get a Ragdoll vaccinated though, especially rabies vaccine…she told me she’s had cats die from getting vaccinated, and if they’re strictly indoor cats, they do not need anything.
i don’t get my cats vaccinated. i have read and seen too much as to why it’s just as bad as humans being over vaccinated. it’s a money maker. my vet said too that if they are mostly indoors then they don’t need all those vaccines. i know there is a chance of something happening but i feel that risk is less than the risk of them getting vaccinated.
Mine get the modified live + rabies. Though I don’t really like them getting the rabies since they are inside cats, there is still the remote possibility of a bat or something getting into the house and if they were bitten, I would never forgive myself for not taking appropriate precautions. The rabies is necessary when I take them to their vacation kitty hotel.
I personally feel that getting the vaccines every year is overkill, but have to bend to enable them to stay in the kitty hotel.
My cats are not ragdolls but all three of our cats get their rabies(purvax)every year (our landlord requires it, and im pretty sure its a state or local law). I can’t remember for sure, but I think only our youngest cat (about 1.5 years old) got the distemper this year, I think they skipped it on the older two. They don’t recommend anything else since they are indoor cats.
We are required by state law to have Rabies vaccine for our cats and dogs and thats it, but all my cats and dogs get all their shots. That FIP is a killer. I don’t particularly care about the FeLV once I found out even if they got the shot the cats could still get it. My cats were way overdue this year and my mom took them and let the Vet give my Ragdoll the FeLV and he was sick for 2 days, I don’t think it’s one Ragdolls should have. It doesn’t to that to my regular cats. I’m about to get a Persian and in the contract it says no FELV and no FIP. All my cats get shots and most of them stay inside and the ones that go outside stay on my frontporch.
I am ecstatic Jenny is posting this discussion as I am so interested in what vaccines people are giving their kittens/cats and what their experiences have been. I am getting a kitten in 2 weeks and am not so sure what to do. I am learning there is a lot of disagreement among the top breeders as to whether to give the modified live version or the killed version. My breeder recommends modified live ONLY which I will continue when I get the kitten but I do have my concerns.