The importance of vaccinations to the overall health and longevity of your cat cannot be understated. Cat vaccines are medically and scientifically proven to combat the incubation and transmission of crippling and fatal feline diseases. Our veterinary staff is dedicated to educating people about the importance of cat vaccinations, including what cat vaccines are necessary, and when they should be scheduled.
It is important to note that our doctors don't follow a 'one size fits all' protocol for immunizations, but rather treat each patient as an individual and recommend the best possible protocols for that particular cat by looking at their risk factors such as age, overall health and lifestyle.
Over the years we have fielded many questions about cat vaccinations from concerned kitten and cat owners. Here, we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions to help you better understand the issues surrounding cat vaccinations. This is only meant to be a general introduction to cat vaccinations, so please consult with one of our veterinarians during your next visit for specific information regarding kitten vaccinations or cat vaccinations where your feline is concerned.
Are Kitten Vaccinations And Cat Vaccinations Necessary?
The answer is yes. A kitten or cat owner is responsible for the wellbeing of their feline friend - this includes happiness and longevity of life. Cat vaccinations are integral component in the longevity equation. Kitten vaccinations and cat vaccinations are medically and scientifically proven to prevent various insidious diseases.
Are Cat Vaccinations Required By Law?
Rabies is the only cat vaccination required by law in the state of IL. This is due primarily to the threat rabies poses to human beings, and the speed at which rabies can spread. Although other cat and kitten vaccinations are not legally required by law, they are important because they protect your cat from serious disease.
What Cat Vaccines Are Recommended?
The American Association of Feline Practitioners has determined what vaccinations should be administered for cats. You should discuss what vaccinations are necessary for your cat based on lifestyle at your next visit. However, the following vaccinations are commonly recommended:
- Rhinotracheitis/Herpes Virus
- Feline Leukemia
Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus are usually combined into a single vaccine called the FVRCP. It is considered a "core" vaccine for all cats. These viruses are easily contagious and spread from cat-to-cat contact.
The FeLV vaccine protects against the feline leukemia virus. Feline leukemia is one the most common causes of illness and death in cats. The virus is typically transmitted through saliva or fluid secretions–any cat around an infected cat should get vaccinated.
The Rabies virus is often passed through open wounds or bites. Symptoms of rabies include sudden changes in behavior, aggression, biting, sensitivity to light, attacking, excitation, seizures, and irritability. Even if your cat is indoor-only, it must be vaccinated against rabies per Cook county law.
Not All Vaccines are Created Equal ~ The Non-Adjuvanted Rabies Vaccine for Cats
Metropolitan Veterinary Center only recommends the non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats. We strictly adhere to the AAFP Vaccine Guidelines and use only the safest vaccines to ensure the lowest risk for your feline.
What Is an Adjuvanted Vaccine?
Adjuvanted vaccines have substances in them that purposely cause inflammation at the vaccine site–alerting the body’s immune response. However, this inflammation has the potential to cause fibrosarcoma, a fatal, aggressive tumor at the site of the vaccination. Although it is rare, we don’t want to take the risk and recommend using our non-adjuvanted vaccines. We use the following non-adjuvanted rabies vaccines: Merial PUREVAX® rabies vaccine: This is the safest vaccine available. What Are The Recommended Kitten And Cat Vaccination Schedules?
Kitten vaccinations and cat vaccinations are dependent upon several factors, including preexisting medical conditions and indoor or outdoor living situations. You should always discuss these factors with a veterinarian to determine what your cat vaccine schedule should be. However, we have listed an approximate cat vaccine schedule here for an 'average' indoor housecat to give you an idea of a cat vaccination timeline:
- 6-10 Weeks Old: FVRCP (feline distemper)
- 11-14 Weeks Old: FVRCP (feline distemper), FeLV (feline leukemia)
- 15+ Weeks Old: FVRCP (feline distemper), FeLV (feline leukemia), rabies vaccine
Adult Cat Vaccinations
Vaccines are given to your cat one year after the end of the kitten series. Combination Vaccine FVRCP, or feline distemper, FeLV for felines at risk of exposure to feline leukemia virus (cats that are unsupervised outdoors), and rabies annually as required by law.
*A combination vaccine includes feline distemper, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus.
**According to the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners, cats at low risk of disease exposure may not need to be boostered yearly for most diseases and an every 3 year protocol is adequate. Consult with the veterinarian at your next visit to determine the appropriate vaccination schedule for your cat. Remember, recommendations vary depending on the age, breed, and health status of the cat, the potential of the cat to be exposed to the disease, the type of vaccine, whether the cat is used for breeding, and the geographical area where the cat lives or may visit.
Are There Risks Associated With Cat Vaccinations?
Although we use the safest vaccines, a small number of cats may have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. Cat vaccinations stimulate your kitten or cat's immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This can cause mild symptoms that generally resolve in 24-48 hours including:
- Mild decrease in activity
- Mild pain or lump at injection site
- Mild decrease in appetite
- Mild upper respiratory infection
Cat vaccinations can cause other risks like injection site tumors and immune disease, however such incidences are extremely rare and can be linked to pre-existing genetic and medical conditions. Because of the potential for injection site reactions, we give each vaccine in a specific location that is noted in the cat's medical record.
The fact is, the rewards of cat vaccinations far outweigh any risks. Cat vaccines have saved countless lives and play a vital role in the battle against feline infectious disease. As with any medical procedure, there is a small chance of negative side effects. In most cases, the risks are much smaller than the risks of disease itself.
Are There Any Side Effects I Should Watch For After Cat Vaccination?
Most cats show no ill side effect from receiving a cat vaccine. If your cat does have a reaction, they are usually minor and short-lived. However, you should still be on the lookout for the following symptoms that might indicate negative side effects from a cat vaccine:
- Severe lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling and redness around the injection site
If you suspect your cat is experiencing any ill side effects from his or her cat vaccine, call us immediately so we can help you to determine whether any special care is needed.
When Should I Schedule Kitten Vaccinations And Cat Vaccinations?
You should schedule your kitten vaccinations as soon as you get your new kitten. Regardless of the age, your new kitten should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is important to get a preventive health care plan in place including vaccinations, deworming and flea control. In addition, we will spend time discussing behavioral training to make sure your kitten develops good behaviors and becomes a great pet.
Plan on spending at least thirty minutes at your first visit. This is a great time to get all your questions answered on kitten care and discuss the recommended preventive program with our veterinary team.
An adult cat vaccination schedule, which includes periodic booster immunizations, will be scheduled one year after the kitten vaccination schedule has been completed.
As with any other immunization protocol, a cat vaccination schedule should be adhered to without deviation, in order to ensure your cat remains healthy and well for the duration of his or her life. We cannot control all health issues but we can prevent the majority of infectious disease with the proper vaccine schedule.