Are you wondering whether it's really worth the money and hassle to get your cat vaccinated? Our Ocala vets explain why cat vaccinations are important and what they protect your cat against.
The Importance of Cat Vaccinations
Serious, often deadly diseases spread between cats affecting vast numbers of cats and kittens each year. To safeguard your cat from contracting a preventable condition, it’s essential to begin having your cat vaccinated starting when they are just a few weeks old and continuing with 'booster shots' on a regular basis throughout their lifetime.
Following the effects of the initial vaccine, ongoing booster shots "boost" your cat's protection against a variety of feline diseases. Booster shots for cats are administered on a regular basis. Your veterinarian will notify you when it is time to bring your cat back for booster shots.
Why Indoor Cats Should Be Vaccinated
You may be skeptical about the need to vaccinate indoor cats however in many states there are laws that require all cats to have certain vaccinations. For example, most states require that cats over the age of 6 months be vaccinated against rabies. Once your cat has its shots your veterinarian will provide you with a certificate showing that your cat has 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 is not looking. 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 spends time in a boarding facility while you are away from home, vaccines are very important for protecting your pet's health. Wherever other cats have been, there is a chance of spreading viruses - make sure that your indoor cat is protected.
Types of Vaccines for Cats
Cat vaccinations are divided into two categories: 'core vaccines' and 'lifestyle vaccines.' Our Ocala 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 the saliva, nasal mucus, and eye discharge of infected cats as well as through aerosol droplets spread when an infected cat sneezes. Feline calicivirus is a highly contagious virus that causes mild to severe respiratory infection, eye irritation, and oral disease in cats.
- Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This highly contagious, ubiquitous virus is one major cause of upper respiratory infections. Spread through sharing of litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets, or direct contact, the virus can infect cats for life. Some will continue to shed the virus, and persistent FHV infection can lead to eye 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
Lifestyle vaccines or non-core vaccines are suitable for some cats, based on their lifestyle. Your vet will advise you as to which non-core vaccines are recommended for your cat. Non-core vaccines include protection against:
- 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 - This bacteria is spread through direct and indirect contact with an infected cat. This condition causes upper respiratory infections that are highly contagious. This vaccine may be recommended by your vet if you are taking your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel.
- Chlamydophila Felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that is spread through direct contact with an infected cat. This infection leads to severe conjunctivitis (eye irritation). The vaccination for this infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) - FIV is a retrovirus that is spread through saliva, primarily through cat bites. This virus suppresses the cat's white blood cells, gradually weakening the immune system. Cats infected with FIV will begin to show symptoms related to immunosuppression including inflammation of gums, diarrhea, skin infections, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, weight loss, poor condition of coat, seizures, behavioral changes
When to Get Your Kitten Their First Shots
Your kitten should have their 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 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 own 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.