Core Vaccines: How To Vaccinate Your Cat

I am writing this for people in places where it may be difficult or impossible to get to a veterinarian. I have been asked to write about home vaccinations by Ahsan in Pakistan who is a feral cat colony caretaker.  He has great difficulty getting to a veterinarian.

The weakness of discussing how to do home cat vaccinations is that you have to get hold of the vaccines and it may very difficult for a cat owner to get vaccines because the drug companies deliver to veterinary clinics. This is my big fear from Ahsan but I will continue nonetheless.

Note 1: cat deworming is also a standard procedure for rescue organizations. I would include that in preventative home delivered medicine.

Note 2: I have researched pet medical supplies in Asia without finding a company who supplies to individuals.

However, in America it is possible for an individual to buy vaccines online. The people who made the video below, Drs Foster & Smith, sell vaccines from their well-known website (a USA based organisation) and indeed they recommend cat owners vaccinate their cat themselves to save on cost and have made a video to explain how:

In the video they describe the areas on the cat’s body where the vaccine is delivered. This is a precaution against an adverse reaction causing cancer as I understand it. However, I would suggest that if you are a person like Ahsan in Pakistan where there is little chance of getting your cats vaccinated then it would easier to deliver the vaccine in the usual place which is at the scruff of the neck (between the shoulder blades) as there is more loose skin there and it must be easier with less chance of making a mistake and contacting bone and muscle.

Below is a video showing injecting insulin for a diabetic cat but the technique applies to any injection. It is quite common for cat owners to inject insulin into their cat. It shows how to do it in the usual place on the cat’s body:

Giving an injection to a cat in the usual place

Core vaccines

UK: When my adult cat was vaccinated for what I will call the “standard vaccines”, he was given one shot only and a second one in two weeks time. He was given them so that he can go to a boarding cattery for a few days. They insist on cats being vaccinated. 

Vaccinations are about risk management. Let’s not forget.

My cat was given a multi-component (multivalent) vaccination allowing one shot to deliver the core vaccines which are for:

  • Feline calicivirus 
  • Feline herpesvirus
  • Feline panleukopenia virus

This is the most common combination vaccination. In shorthand the vaccines are for FVR (herpesvirus), FCV (calicivirus) and FPL (panleukopenia).

USA: the core vaccines are the same as for UK.

Injection: in what part of the body?

The shot was delivered to the scruff of the neck as shown in the video above.

When? At what age?

Kittens can be vaccinated as early as 6 weeks of age. Most vets wait until the kitten is 7-8 weeks of age. Of course, adult cats can be vaccinated too. Regarding the panleukopenia vaccine and for kittens living in higher risk areas it is advisable to vaccinate at about 6 weeks of age and then every three to four weeks until the kitten is 16 weeks old. Thereafter a booster is given at 1 to 2 years of age and then every three years thereafter.


These may come with the vaccine. If not they will have to be purchased separately. Needles should be used once only meaning separate needles for each vaccination.

Administer vaccine in the nose

The core vaccines for herpes, calicivirus and panleukpenia can be given by droping the vaccine into the nose (intranasal delivery). This could be a preferred method in out-of-the-way places as it is easier and should require less skill. It may be slightly less efficient, however.

Tips from Izzy

Always wear gloves, particularly if the cat is feral. Clip their nails before you attempt to stick a needle in a cat. Some cats tolerate a stick fairly well. Others will whip on you in a nano second and can cause injury. I speak from experience. 🙂

If you have a testy cat or you are a newbie to vaccinating, have someone help you. One person to hold the cat FIRMLY and the other to quickly administer the shot. Rub the area where the vaccine was administered lightly for a few seconds.

If you do get scratched or bit, force the wound to bleed a little, then flood it with peroxide. Apply Neosporin or another good topical ointment. I actually use ‘Panalog’. It is a veterinary medicine that is used on animal wounds, but humans have also used it. I’ve used it for years. Watch for swelling and redness.

Tips from Harvey

Ahsan in Pakistan could try contacting the importer of vaccines to get a better deal, but the matter of maintained refrigeration (+2 to +7 degrees C) is of vital importance.

The problem is when to vaccinate. It is generally considered that vaccinations can be done at 2-3 months with kittens, and spme Vets claim that 6 weeks is OK. However maternal antibody protection can last up to 14 weeks or 3 months 14 days. The mother’s antibodies still active in the kitten destroy the newly introduced virus and prevent the kitten from adequately developing it’s own immunity. Thus early vaccination may be a waste of time. The answer is not easy as the time after 3 months is a very dangerous time for a kitten but I would suggest that the use of a killed virus vaccination at 14 weeks is the best option.

Administering live attenuated vaccines in the nose can cause a full blown disease episode. In the case of the 3-in-1 vaccine the active agents reach the nose, throat, lungs, where they replicate very fast because that is the area they specialize in. Attenuated live vaccines work by replicating slowly when injected in other body areas giving the immune system time to react. Nasal applications sabotage their modus operandi. There are however newer vaccines designed specifically for nasal application. But how does one squirt the vaccine into a cat’s nose? Most of it will go on the cat’s face or on the table.


Except for the “Tips” sections from Izzy and Harvey, this is simplified information because the vaccination of cats is quite complicated. I have simplified it deliberately because it is intended to be read by people whose first language is not English and who are working under tough conditions where a refined approach is pointless.

I would be very pleased if anyone can add to this page in a comment or make corrections if required.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

17 thoughts on “Core Vaccines: How To Vaccinate Your Cat”

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