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Necessary Vaccinations
for Cats & Kittens

All cats should be vaccinated, even strictly indoor ones. Cats may always escape. Some diseases use mice, fleas, or other insects as vectors and do not require the presence of other cats. Natural disasters consider earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., may let your cat out of the house. Therefore if you get a new kitten, it is important to find out what vaccinations it has been given and at what age. If you obtain an adult cat, you should know when it had its last booster vaccinations.

A kitten usually will receive a series of two to four vaccinations. The actual number varies, depending on the kitten's age at the first visit, whether the mother was vaccinated, and whether the kitten came from a potential disease situation (such as exposure to a sick animal).

Feline distemper, or feline panleukopenia, is a severe viral disease that is frequently fatal if untreated. Cats with distemper do not eat, are lethargic, and have fever. The risk of contracting distemper can be virtually eliminated by appropriately vaccinating your cat.

The feline herpesvirus that causes rhinotracheitis and the feline calicivirus produce teary eyes and nasal discharge. Also, eye ulcers can occur with feline herpesvirus infections. The feline calicivirus can produce ulcerations on the tongue and roof of the mouth, and occasionally the infection will cause pneumonia. Those two viral infections can be difficult to differentiate clinically or to cure; many cats become chronic carriers of the viruses. Feline pneumonitis, caused by a Chlamydia organism, is a mild to severe respiratory and eye disease. Chlamydial vaccines are available, often in combination with other vaccines. Although vaccination does not provide complete protection, it will reduce the severity of the disease.

In general, the first vaccination to protect against diseases caused by these organisms is given around six to eight weeks of age, and other vaccinations are given at three- to four-week intervals until the kitten is twelve to sixteen weeks of age. That regime will help to protect a very high percentage of cats from feline panleukopenia (distemper) and respiratory viruses (the herpesvirus and the calicivirus). Occasionally, your veterinarian may start vaccinations at an earlier age or give them at shorter intervals if there have been problems with feline viral diseases in your area. Following initial vaccinations, boosters should be given regularly to keep the cat protected.

Vaccines can help protect your cat against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). The kitten should be tested before vaccinating it, since the vaccine will not provide protection if the kitten is already infected with the virus. If the test is negative for FeLV, the kitten should be vaccinated twice starting at nine to ten weeks of age, with the second vaccine dose given three to four weeks later. Your cat should receive annual revaccinations ("booster" vaccinations) against FeLV. Since the FeLV vaccines will not protect all cats, your veterinarians will discuss additional ways to help prevent infection.

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is caused by a coronavirus. The first FIP vaccine was introduced in 1991. The vaccine is administered intranasally to cats at 16 weeks of age, with boosters in three to four weeks, and then yearly. Cats in multiple cat facilities have a much greater risk of developing FIP than most household cats. If used appropriately and in conjunction with proper management, this vaccine has been found helpful in reducing the incidence of FIP in certain multiple cat environments. If your cat resides in a high-risk environment, you should discuss the vaccine with your veterinarian.

Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a newly recognized feline virus that affects the immune system, similar to human AIDS. There are diagnostic tests available to determine if a cat is infected with the virus. Usually it is advisable to test after the kitten is four months or older to obtain the most accurate test results. Your cat should be vaccinated against rabies. The first vaccine should be given at age twelve to sixteen weeks, followed by booster shots.

Feline Vaccination Schedule

6 weeks:Temporary vaccination for kittens that did that did not nurse from their mother during the first hours after birth or kittens from a mother that is not current on her vaccinations

8 weeks:FVRCP-Panleukopenia (The first FVRCP vaccination must be boostered after 3-4 weeks to insure maximum levels of immunity in your cat. Your vet may also recommend an additional booster vaccination at 15-16 weeks of age. ), Rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, and Chlamydia

12 weeks: FVRCP Booster FeLV-Feline Leukemia

16 weeks:

  • FeLV Booster
  • FVRCP Booster (if recommended)

6 months: Rabies

14 months:

  • FVRCP (Boostered annually from this date)
  • FeLV (Boostered annually from this date)

18 months:

  • Rabies (Boostered every 1-3 years from this date depending on local vaccination requirements)

Additional Information

The FVRCP, FeLV, and Rabies vaccinations are given as injections. Some cats develop a small lump at the injection site several weeks following the injection. Normally the lump will subside within a few weeks and should only raise concern if it lasts considerably longer than this. Let your vet know if the lump seems to bother your cat or does not seem to go away several weeks after it appeared. Always contact your vet if your cat displays any other adverse reactions to the vaccinations it has been given.

Please note: The information provided here is meant to supplement that provided by your veterinarian.
Nothing can replace a complete history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian.

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