DIY Cat Vaccinations. Should You Try It At Home?


With the cost of veterinary care continuing to rise, an increasing number of cat owners are wondering if they can administer vaccines to their feline companions themselves. This article will cover the pros and cons of owners vaccinating their own cats, with a focus on whether it is safe, legal, and effective for owners to give their cats common vaccines at home.

We will examine the different types of core vaccines cats should receive, look at the proper techniques for handling and administering vaccines, and discuss the risks involved. The goal is to provide cat owners with a comprehensive guide to self-administering vaccines, so they can make an informed decision about whether to vaccinate their cats themselves or leave it to their veterinarian.

Background on Cat Vaccines

Cats require certain core vaccines to protect against common and serious feline diseases. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, core vaccines for cats include:

  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR): Prevents feline herpesvirus infection
  • Calicivirus (FCV): Prevents respiratory infection
  • Panleukopenia (FPV): Prevents feline distemper
  • Rabies: Prevents rabies virus infection
  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV, for cats under 1 year old): Prevents feline leukemia virus infection

Kittens require a series of vaccinations starting as early as 6-8 weeks of age, with boosters every 2-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age. Thereafter, cats require annual or three-year core vaccine boosters depending on risk factors and lifestyle.

Adult cats who have received their kitten series and annual boosters require core vaccine boosters every one to three years based on veterinary recommendations. More frequent vaccine boosters may be needed for outdoor cats or cats with high exposure risk.

Pros of Owner-Administered Vaccines

One of the biggest pros of owner-administered vaccines is that they can be less expensive than bringing your cat to the vet for vaccines. Buying vaccines over the counter and giving them yourself means no service fee charged by a veterinarian. This can add up to significant savings for pet parents who have multiple cats that require routine vaccinations.

Giving your own cat vaccines can also be much more convenient than scheduling an appointment and bringing your cat into the vet clinic. Administering vaccines at home takes just a few minutes and allows you to vaccinate on your own schedule. You avoid the hassle of transporting your cat as well as long waits at the vet’s office.

Cons of Owner-Administered Vaccines

There are some risks involved with pet owners administering vaccines to their own cats rather than having a veterinarian do it. Two major cons are the risk of incorrect administration or dosing and the lack of a vet exam beforehand to check the cat’s health.

It’s important to follow the vaccine dosage and administration guidelines exactly as directed, which cat owners may not have experience doing. As noted in a study from the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, “Illness subsequent to such exposure is known as an adverse event. In the case of exposure to a live vaccine, this is termed a vaccine reaction.” [1] Giving the wrong dose or injecting the vaccine improperly can potentially cause adverse reactions in the cat.

Additionally, when a vet administers vaccines they will first do an exam to make sure the cat is healthy enough to receive them. Pet owners may miss underlying conditions that could be exacerbated by a vaccine. Having a vet check over the cat beforehand can help avoid potential issues.

How to Give a Vaccine

Giving your cat its own vaccine takes some preparation and care. Here are the steps to properly administer a vaccine:

You’ll need a sterile needle and syringe in the appropriate gauge and size for your cat. Typically you’ll use a 25g or 27g needle that is 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. Only use sterile disposable needles and syringes. Gather the vaccine, needle, syringe, and rubbing alcohol to disinfect the area.

Select an area on the back of the cat’s neck between the shoulder blades to administer the vaccine. Gently grasp and tent the skin between the shoulders. Quickly insert the needle under the tent of skin, being careful to not poke deeply into muscle.

Once the needle is under the skin, pull back slightly on the plunger to check for blood – if you see blood you’ve poked too far. Inject the vaccine if no blood appears. Remove the needle quickly and apply gentle pressure with a cotton ball to the site.

Discard the used syringe and needle safely. Monitor your cat after vaccination for any reactions at the site or overall side effects.

Storing and Handling Vaccines

Proper storage and handling of vaccines is crucial to maintain their effectiveness. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, most vaccines must be stored between 36-46°F (2-8°C) ( The ASPCA recommends storing cat vaccines between 35-45°F. Temperatures outside of this range can render the vaccines less effective or useless. The refrigerator where vaccines are stored should have an accurate thermometer to monitor the temperature at all times.

In terms of shelf life, the duration varies by vaccine, but most have an expiration date of 1-2 years when stored properly. Always check the expiration date and confirm vaccines are still within date before using them. Do not use expired vaccines as they may not produce an appropriate immune response.

When handling vaccines, avoid exposing them to light or warmth for prolonged periods. Only remove them from the refrigerator immediately before use. Do not pre-draw vaccines in syringes and store them, as this can decrease potency over time ( Careful handling preserves vaccine viability and effectiveness.

Recording Proof of Vaccination

It is important to keep a written record of your cat’s vaccinations. This serves as proof that your cat has been properly vaccinated. According to the CDC, cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for entry into the United States. However, many states and localities do require proof of rabies vaccination for cats. For example, some states require proof of rabies vaccination in order for cats to be licensed.

After administering a vaccine to your cat yourself, have your veterinarian sign off on the vaccination. This provides documentation that the vaccine was given properly. Keep a paper record of the vaccination details, including the date, vaccine name, batch number, and expiration date. Make sure your vet signs and dates this record after reviewing it. Retain this paper proof of vaccination in case you need to show it to licensing officials or for travel purposes.

Risks and Side Effects

Vaccines, like any medication, can potentially cause side effects. The most common side effects from cat vaccination are mild and temporary. These can include:

  • Soreness or swelling at the injection site
  • Low-grade fever
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy or reduced activity

According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, these reactions typically resolve within 24-48 hours (source). Serious side effects are very rare, but can include facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and respiratory distress.

If your cat has a suspected adverse reaction to a vaccine, discontinue vaccination and contact your veterinarian immediately. You may need to provide supportive care such as fluids or medication. In severe cases, veterinary hospitalization may be required. With prompt treatment, most cats recover fully.

To help reduce the risk of reactions, only use vaccines prescribed by your veterinarian. Administer vaccines properly by following label directions. Observe your cat closely for at least 30 minutes after vaccination to monitor for any immediate adverse effects.

Alternatives to Self-Administering

There are some alternative options pet owners can consider instead of administering vaccines themselves:

Mobile vet services are one convenient alternative. Many mobile vets will come to your home or office to provide vaccine services at competitive rates. This eliminates the stress of bringing your cat to the vet clinic while still ensuring professional administration.

Check with local veterinary clinics as some may offer discounted vaccine rates or packages. Vet clinics have the proper storage facilities, training, and oversight to safely administer vaccines. Going to an accredited vet provides peace of mind the vaccine is handled properly.

Titer testing determines antibody levels rather than automatically revaccinating. Discuss options with your vet, as this can potentially reduce the number of vaccines needed. However, standard vet visits are still required for administering necessary vaccines.

While self-administering vaccines may seem convenient and affordable, the risks generally outweigh potential benefits. Working with a qualified vet to explore alternative options can help keep your cat protected without compromising their health and safety.


As we’ve seen, there are pros and cons to owners administering vaccines to their own cats. On one hand, it can save money and be more convenient. On the other hand, mistakes in storage, dosage, and record keeping can lead to health risks. While administering your own cat’s vaccine is technically allowed in most places, it requires care and planning to do it safely.

If you do choose to vaccinate your cat yourself, be sure to follow all storage and handling instructions precisely. Calculate the proper dosage carefully based on your cat’s weight. Give the vaccine in the proper location. Watch for any side effects afterward. And keep diligent records of each vaccination for your own reference and to provide proof to boarding facilities, vets, and others who may require it.

While the risks of self-administering can be managed with proper precautions, owners should carefully weigh whether the small cost and time savings are worth it compared to having a trained vet perform the procedure. Your vet can also best advise on your cat’s specific health conditions and vaccine needs. For many owners, the tiny risk of a problem may not be worth vaccinating their own cat.

Scroll to Top