What vaccines does my outdoor cat need?

Because outdoor cats are exposed to other neighborhood cats and wildlife, they face a higher risk of health issues. Our South Simi Valley vets explain how cat vaccinations can help protect your furry friend against serious illnesses. 

Are vaccines safe for cats?

Believe it or not, vaccinating our pets can be a controversial topic - much like human vaccinations.

Our vets at Park Animal Hospital believe vaccinations are safe for cats, and that vaccinating your outdoor cat can help protect him or her from a number of serious conditions that can be costly to treat - and even potentially deadly.

However, because not all cats face the same health risks, vaccination requirements may vary depending on the cat. While all cats should receive core vaccines, and most states require the Rabies vaccine by law, some 'lifestyle vaccines' are designed for cats who spend time outside with other cats.

What are core vaccines for cats?

Core vaccines are designed to prevent diseases typically found in your area that can spread very quickly, and leave a high fatality rate in their wake. If your cat is an outdoor feline, it’s important to protect your cat with these core vaccinations:


Rabies is one of the few diseases that can be transmitted to humans by cats and other pets. The rabies virus, which is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, causes brain inflammation (acute encephalitis) and will gradually infect a person's or animal's entire nervous system, resulting in death.

In many states, including North Carolina, dogs, cats, and ferrets are mandated by law to be vaccinated for rabies, without exception.

Feline Calicivirus

Both cats and kittens are susceptible to this highly contagious respiratory disease. The illness spreads to the respiratory tract of a cat, including the lungs and nasal passages, as well as the mouth, musculoskeletal system, and intestines.

Feline calicivirus can be very challenging to eliminate once a cat has contracted it, which is why we strongly recommend vaccinating him or her against the disease.

Feline Herpesvirus Type I (Rhinotracheitis)

Also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis - FVR - Feline Herpesvirus is a major factor in upper respiratory disease for cats, in addition to tissue inflammation around the cat’s eyes.

Cats that become infected with VR can spread the virus to other cats they interact with. Although the symptoms can be treated, the virus remains. Illness or stress can reactivate Feline Herpesvirus, causing the cat to become infectious.

Panleukopenia (Feline Parvo or Feline Distemper)

Canine parvovirus is closely linked to panleukopenia. This highly contagious, potentially fatal viral disease attacks a cat's blood cells, as well as cells in the bone marrow, skin, developing fetus, and intestinal tract.

Spread through nasal secretions, urine, and stool of infected cats, Panleukopenia can also hitch a ride with fleas who have bitten an infected cat.

What ‘lifestyle vaccines’ does my outdoor cat require?

Cats that spend a lot of time outside are more vulnerable to parasites and diseases, so it's critical to protect them from serious diseases. 'Lifestyle vaccines' are primarily recommended for cats who spend a lot of time outside or around other cats.

Your vet may recommend these lifestyle cat vaccinations for your intrepid feline wanderer:

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

The leading viral killer of cats and kittens can go undetected for long periods of time, gradually weakening a cat's immune system and making it more vulnerable to other diseases, including cancer. Fungi, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that would not normally infect healthy cats can make FeLV-infected cats very sick. It can also lead to a variety of blood disorders.

Cats can spread feline leukemia through saliva while grooming one another and biting wounds. The disease can also be transmitted to kittens through a mother’s milk or via a shared litter box. Unfortunately, many infected cats do not receive a diagnosis until after they have lived with other cats for some time. 

In these cases, all other cats in the household should be tested for FeLV.

Because kittens are at high risk for getting this disease they should be vaccinated against the Feline Leukemia virus starting at about 9 to 12 weeks old.

Chlamydia (Clamydophila felis)

Chlamydia can cause eye infections and respiratory disease in cats and is easily spread between cats who interact closely. Our veterinarians recommend that all cats in catteries, shelters, or with breeders be immunized against this illness. Consult your veterinarian to determine whether your cat is susceptible to this condition.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat due for annual vaccinations? Contact our Simi Valley veterinary hospital today to book a vaccination appointment for your pet.