Did you know that vaccines are just as important for your feline family members as they are for the humans? Vaccines can protect your cat from many of the most common diseases, providing the best possible opportunity for a safe, healthy, long life. Of course, like anything else, each vaccine has its own risks and benefits. Your veterinarian will help you decide on the proper course of vaccines for your individual cat. Overall, however, experts agree that vaccines are an absolutely essential part of proper cat care.

What Are Vaccines?

Vaccines are a method of preparing the body for a possible attack by an unwanted pathogen. Vaccines contain antigens, which are either killed or weakened forms of the actual pathogen, or synthetic substitutes. They stimulate a mild form of the immune response, teaching the body to quickly recognize and stop the actual pathogen, should exposure occur.

What Are the Core Vaccines for Cats?

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, there are four basic core vaccines that every cat should receive: panleukopenia (feline distemper or FPV), feline calicivirus (FCV), feline herpes virus type I (FHV-1) and rabies. Of these, the first three are bundled into a single vaccine, while the rabies vaccine is administered separately. Although only the rabies vaccine is required by most state laws, both vaccines are considered extremely important by feline health professionals.

What Are the Non-Core Vaccines, and How Do I Know if My Cat Needs Them?

The non-core vaccines are feline leukemia virus (FeLV), Bordetella, chylamydophila felis, and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). They are typically administered based on the individual cat’s risk factors and lifestyle.

The most commonly administered non-core vaccine is FeLV. It is generally recommended for all kittens, as well as adult cats that test negative for feline leukemia, particularly if they live outdoors or are regularly exposed to outdoor cats. The other non-core vaccines are usually reserved for cats that are believed to be at higher than average risk for infection.

What Is the Typical Vaccine Schedule for Cats?

Every cat will have a slightly different vaccine schedule based on the cat’s age and current health status at the time it is acquired, as well as whether your state laws require rabies boosters annually or only every three years. However, for a new kitten, the following schedule is reasonably typical:

  • Initial Vaccines: The mother’s milk provides immunity for new kittens until approximately six to eight weeks of age. Around this time, your kitten will undergo a series of vaccinations at three to four-week intervals until approximately 16 weeks of age. This includes the three-vaccine core vaccine series as well as a first rabies vaccine. If appropriate, non-core vaccines may also be included.
  • Adult Boosters: Annual booster vaccines are still frequently recommended, but some evidence shows that cats living exclusively indoors may not need boosters that frequently. At the Cat Hospital, we use the Purevax one year rabies product.

What Are the Risks Associated with Cat Vaccines?

Cat vaccines are remarkably safe. Very rare serious reactions can occur, such as allergic reactions and injection site tumors (most common with three-year rabies vaccines). For the most part, however, side effects are short-lived and mild. The most common are mild fever, slight lethargy, soreness at the injection site, and minor gastrointestinal distress. Should symptoms become severe or last for more than a day or so, talk to your veterinarian. Most cats will be back to normal in no time.

Why Choose The Cat Hospital?

Established in 1994, The Cat Hospital focuses solely on the health and well-being of cats. Our veterinarian, Dr. Maureen Ricksgers, graduated from the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1986. Since 1988, she has worked exclusively with cats.

Our entire team consists of cat lovers who work hard to create a calm, quiet, feline-friendly hospital setting. We understand that even routine wellness visits can be extremely hard on both cats and their human families, but with our extensive knowledge of feline behavior and the latest in cat handling techniques, we believe that we can bring the stress level down to a minimum.

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