Are you wondering if it's worth the money and trouble to get your cat vaccinated? Our Lebanon veterinarians explain why cat vaccinations are necessary and what they protect your cat from.
The Importance of Cat Vaccinations
Every year, a large number of cats and kittens are affected by serious, often fatal diseases spread by cats. To protect your cat from contracting a preventable disease, start having them vaccinated when they are just a few weeks old and continue with booster shots regularly throughout their lifetime.
Ongoing booster shots “boost” your cat’s protection against a variety of feline diseases after the effects of the initial vaccine wear off. Booster shots for cats are given on specific schedules. Your veterinarian will let you know when to bring your cat back for their booster shots.
Why Indoor Cats Should Be Vaccinated
You may be skeptical about the need to vaccinate indoor cats, but in many states, all cats are required to have certain vaccinations. Most states, for example, require cats over the age of six months to be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has received their vaccinations, your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate indicating that they have been vaccinated as required.
Another reason to vaccinate your indoor cat is that indoor cats frequently manage to sneak out the door when their owner isn't looking. Just a quick sniff around your yard could expose your cat to one of the highly contagious viruses that cats are susceptible to.
If your indoor cat visits a groomer or stays in a boarding facility while you are away, vaccines are critical for protecting his or her health. There is a risk of virus transmission wherever other cats have been; ensure that your indoor cat is protected.
Types of Vaccines for Cats
Cat vaccinations are divided into two categories: 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines.' Our Lebanon veterinarians strongly advise that all cats, both indoor and outdoor, receive core vaccinations to protect them from highly contagious diseases to which they may be exposed.
What Core Vaccines for Cats Protect Against
Core vaccinations are recommended for all cats. These vaccinations are considered vital for protecting your cat from the following common and serious feline conditions:
- Panleukopenia (feline distemper) - The feline parvovirus causes FP, an extremely serious and highly contagious viral disease. The feline parvovirus infects and kills rapidly growing and dividing cells, such as those in bone marrow, the intestines, or a developing fetus. The virus spreads via urine, feces, and nasal secretions. When susceptible cats come into contact with these secretions or fleas from an infected cat, they become infected. Although infected cats are only contagious for a day or two, the virus can survive in the environment for up to a year, so cats can become infected without ever coming into direct contact with an infected cat.
- Feline calicivirus (FCV) - This virus spreads through direct contact with infected cats' saliva, nasal mucus, and eye discharge, as well as aerosol droplets spread when an infected cat sneezes. Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious virus that infects cats and causes mild to severe respiratory infections, eye irritation, and oral disease.
- Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This highly contagious and widespread virus is a leading cause of upper respiratory infections. The virus can infect cats for life if it is spread through the sharing of litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets, or direct contact. Some will continue to shed the virus, and long-term FHV infection can cause vision problems.
- Rabies - Rabies kills many mammals (including humans) every year. These vaccinations are required by law for cats in most states
What Lifestyle Vaccines for Cats Protect Against
Some cats may benefit from lifestyle vaccines or non-core vaccines based on their lifestyle. Your veterinarian will advise you on which non-core vaccines are appropriate for your cat. Non-core vaccines protect against the following diseases:
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) - FeLV is a retrovirus that spreads through an infected cat's saliva, nasal secretions, urine, feces, and milk; it may also be transmitted through cats grooming each other. This condition weakens your cat's immune system and can result in a loss of appetite, intestinal problems, lymphoma, leukemia, reproductive problems, secondary infections due to immunosuppression, poor healing, chronic respiratory infections, and gum inflammation.
- Bordetella - Contact with an infected cat, both direct and indirect, spreads this bacteria. This condition causes highly contagious upper respiratory infections. If you are taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel, your veterinarian may recommend this vaccine.
- Chlamydophila Felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection spread by direct contact with an infected cat. Severe conjunctivitis results from this infection (eye irritation). This infection is frequently included in the distemper combination vaccine.
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) - FIV is a retrovirus that is transmitted through saliva, most notably through cat bites. This virus suppresses the cat's white blood cells, weakening the immune system over time. Cats infected with FIV will begin to exhibit immunosuppressive symptoms such as gum inflammation, diarrhea, skin infections, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, weight loss, poor coat condition, seizures, and behavioral changes.
When to Get Your Kitten Their First Shots
Your kitten should go to the veterinarian for its first round of vaccinations around the age of six to eight weeks. Following that, your kitten should receive a series of vaccines every three or four weeks until they are about 16 weeks old.
When To Get Your Cat Their Booster Shots
Adult cats should receive booster shots either yearly or every three years depending on the vaccine. Your vet will advise you on when you bring your adult cat back for their booster shots.
Full Protection From Your Kitten's First Vaccines
Your kitten is not fully vaccinated until they have received all of their injections, which should happen between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks. Your kitten will be protected against the diseases covered by the vaccines once they have received all of their initial vaccinations.
If you want to allow your kitten outdoors before they have received all of their vaccines, it is a good idea to keep them confined to low-risk areas such as your backyard.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.