Kitten Vaccinations: What Shots Your Kitten Needs

Updated: 12/15/20232-4 minutes
Kitten at vet

Between six and eight weeks of age, your kitten should see the veterinarian to begin a series of kitten vaccinations.

If you’re asking, “What vaccines do kittens need?”, you can expect them to receive vaccines for rabies, and several rounds of vaccines for upper respiratory infections and distemper. If any cats in your home spend time outdoors or with other cats, you should also consider getting them vaccinated against the feline leukemia virus.

The Most Common Kitten Vaccinations

The core vaccinations every kitten needs play a crucial role in protecting them from numerous common diseases. Many diseases can threaten their health, longevity and even the life of your kitten.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpesvirus Virus Type-1)

This version of the herpes virus exclusively infects wild and domesticated cats of any age. Kittens and cats become infected by coming into contact with virus particles from saliva and discharges from the nose and eyes of an infected cat.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with an infected cat or an object an infected cat has touched. Symptoms typically appear between two and five days. Once a cat becomes infected, the virus will stay in their system and flare up periodically.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis Symptoms:

  • Inflamed tissues surrounding the eyes, throat and nose
  • Watery or thick discharge from the eyes and nose
  • Squinting and increased blinking
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Poor appetite
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Potential infection of the cornea known as keratitis.


All warm-blooded animals, including cats, dogs and their human companions, can contract the rabies virus. Rabies vaccinations are crucial because it’s a dangerous and almost always fatal infection. Rabies is typically passed from one animal to another through a bite where the virus enters the bloodstream of the bite recipient.

Rabies Symptoms:

  • Noted change in temperament or behavior. Your cat may begin to act uncharacteristically; less or more social than usual, easily agitated, potentially aggressive
  • Extreme excitement known as “furious rabies” where the cat can become quickly agitated and prone to dangerous acts of aggression
  • Excessive swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Coma


The feline calicivirus is a respiratory disease that can affect a cat’s mouth, respiratory tract, intestines and musculoskeletal system.

This infection is highly communicable amongst cats who are not vaccinated and are in contact with infected cats or in areas where infected cats have been. Calicivirus can cause serious illness in cats that requires hospitalization and can also lead to death.

Calicivirus Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ulcers of the mouth, palate, tongue, nose, lips or even on the paws near or around the claws
  • Eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Pneumonia
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fever
  • Arthritis
  • Hemorrhaging

Feline Distemper (Feline Panleukopenia Virus)

Feline Distemper can affect cats of all ages. This viral disease is highly communicable and one of the deadliest cat diseases. Those most vulnerable are kittens between two to six weeks, immunocompromised cats and pregnant cats.

Feline distemper can spread through contact with the saliva, blood, nasal discharge, urine or feces of an infected cat. This virus divides blood cells within an infected cat’s body and lowers the white blood cell count. In turn, this makes the body vulnerable to other potential infections.

Feline Distemper Symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • High fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Fortunately, there are many effective vaccines. The FVRCP vaccine, for example, can help guard your cat against rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. Consult with your veterinarian soon after adopting a new kitten. They can tell you which ones they recommend, when your kitten should receive them and how much kitten vaccinations cost.

What Other Shots Do Kittens Need?

While the diseases mentioned above are the most important to vaccinate your kitten against, there are other illnesses they may or may not need vaccinations against. The importance of these vaccines hinges on a few different factors, including the risk of infection, living situation and level of exposure to other cats. Discuss your kitten’s lifestyle with your veterinarian, who will help you decide if any additional shots are necessary.

For more cat health tips from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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