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  • Everything You Need To Know About Cat Vaccinations

    by Emily Bergquist

    Cat vaccinations are one of the most debated topics in the pet world. Knowing what vaccinations for your cat are necessary and which ones are optional can be confusing. In this article, we provide detailed answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on cat vaccinations.

    A black and white cat sit in front of a green wall with two paws curled over a bamboo stick.

    Do I need to vaccinate my cat?

    The answer to this question is yes. 

    According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, your cat should be vaccinated. Cat vaccinations are also scientifically and medically proven to be beneficial. Such vaccinations minimize the transmission of fatal diseases. They also prolong your fur baby’s life as they prevent notable crippling disorders.

    Furthermore, vaccinating your cat against diseases such as rabies ensures that you and other animals in your home are safe from fatal diseases.

    When Should You Vaccinate Your Cat?

    If you just brought a kitten into your home, you’ll first need to find out if they are vaccinated. 

    Kittens should be vaccinated as early as six weeks. The vaccinations are administered in a series of three to four weeks, until your kitty reaches 16 weeks. The kitten should also get their booster shots a year later.

    If you have an adult cat who has never been vaccinated, you’ll need to talk to your vet. The vet will advise you on the best vaccines for your fur baby after considering their age, lifestyle, breed, location, and pre existing medical conditions. 

    Adult cats that have already been vaccinated will need booster shots after 1-3 years, depending on the duration of the vaccine, location, and lifestyle. 

    Orange kitten with blue eyes walking through grass on a sunny day/

    What vaccines do I need to give my cat?

    According to the Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel guidelines, cat vaccines are divided into two categories.

    • Core shots
    • Non-core shots

    Core Cat Vaccines

    The core vaccines are required for all cats. These vaccines protect against diseases that are highly contagious and fatal. The core vaccines also have minimal adverse effects on cats. 

    The four essential vaccines include:

    • Rabies
    • Feline calicivirus
    • Panleukopenia or feline distemper
    • Feline viral rhinotracheitis

    Below we’ll take a look at each of these vaccines.

    Rabies vaccine

    The rabies virus is fatal to both humans and animals. Most states require that your cat be vaccinated against rabies. Cats get rabies after being infected by other sick animals, and they then pass on the virus to others. Some of the symptoms of this disease in your cat may include convulsions, aggression, and death.

    The FVRCP vaccine

    This vaccine is also known as the distemper shot. It’s a single shot given to protect your pet against three illnesses: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. It’s made up of the three vaccines below:

    • The FPV shot –This vaccine protects your cat from panleukopenia, which is a highly infectious illness that is characterized by poor appetite, lack of energy, diarrhea, and vomiting. 
    • The FHV-1 shot – This vaccine protects your pet against the feline rhinotracheitis virus, also known as herpesvirus. This virus affects your cat respiratory system and is characterized by conjunctivitis, nasal congestion, and sneezing. The disease can also lead to pneumonia.
    • FCV shot – This shot protects your feline from the Feline calicivirus, which also affects their upper respiratory organs. The signs of this virus include oral ulcerations, sneezing, nasal discharge, gingivitis, and even death.

    Your cat should get booster shots of these core vaccines one year after the initial shots. The FVRCP vaccine should be administered annually to outdoor cats, while indoor cats should get the vaccine every three years. 

    Outdoor cats are also more susceptible to fleas and ticks and other external parasites. Professional flea exterminator Jordan Foster states, “No flea or tick vaccine exists at present, so make sure to keep your cat pest free with flea and tick treatment.”

    Non-core Cat Vaccines

    Your fur baby may need extra vaccines depending on the prevalence of illness in your area and the amount of time they spend outdoors. These shots are non-core vaccines. Some of the most common ones include:

    • Chlamydia – This shot protects your cat from Chlamydia, a bacterial infection that leads to conjunctivitis. This shot is sometimes part of the FVRCP vaccine.
    • Feline leukemia (Felv) – This vaccine is highly recommended for outdoor cats. The Felv virus is transmitted through body fluids such as saliva and urine. Although some cats recover from this disease, others suffer from secondary illnesses such as anemia or lymphoma once the disease goes past the latency stage.
    • Bordetella – Cats who often stay in animal shelters or areas where there are lots of pets should get vaccinated against Bordetella. This disease is highly contagious and causes respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, fever, difficult breathing, and nasal discharge.
    A brown cat sleeping on ledge of a tan couch with a yellow wall in the backdrop.

    Do cat vaccines have severe side effects?

    Each of the vaccines highlighted above carries a given amount of risk.  However, these risks are much lower than the risk of your pet getting the highlighted diseases.

    The effects of these vaccines on your cat are often mild, and they occur in only about 0.5% of all the vaccinated cats. Death and other adverse outcomes are extremely rare. If your cat has no history of vaccine reactions, they will likely be okay.

    Some of the symptoms you can look out for that may be an indication of a vaccine reaction include:

    • Fever
    • Lameness
    • Swelling and redness on the injection area
    • Vomiting
    • Lethargy
    • Hives
    • Diarrhea

    If you notice any of these signs, consult your vet immediately to ensure your pet gets immediate care.

    Keep Track of Your Cat’s Vaccination Records

    After vaccinating your cat, stay organized by keeping track of your cat’s vaccination records for free through Pawprint, an app that stores all your pet’s health information in one place. Simply download the app, find your veterinarian, and request your pet’s digital vaccination records in just a few easy steps. You can also set vaccination reminders for yourself in the Pawprint app, so you’ll be notified when your cat is due for another round of shots.

    Understanding the importance of vaccinating your cat is vital to being a good pet parent. If you have a new kitten or your adult cat isn’t up-to-date with their vaccinations, schedule a visit with a vet immediately so you can agree on a vaccination schedule.

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