Cat vaccinations: keeping your kitten healthy and happy
When it comes to your cat or kitten's health and wellbeing, prevention is better than cure.
Vaccinations are the best way to protect your feline friend against multiple illnesses, some of which can be fatal.
Why do cats need vaccinations?
Vaccinations are an effective way of keeping nasty diseases at bay.
They'll protect your cat from infectious and sometimes life-threatening conditions such as Cat Flu, Feline Infectious Enteritis or Leukaemia.
Vaccinations are also essential if you plan to put your cat into a cattery.
Which vaccinations does my cat/kitten need?
Generally, your cat will be vaccinated against:
Feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus
Herpesvirus and Calicivirus are responsible for most cases of Cat Flu – sometimes known as Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Disease. Much like human flu, Cat Flu symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, sticky eyes (conjunctivitis and ocular discharge) and a sore throat. Read more about Feline calicivirus.
Annual vaccination will protect your cat from flu and work to reduce the severity of their symptoms, although it's important to be aware that because there are so many strains of Cat Flu, it’s impossible to prevent it entirely.
Feline infectious enteritis
Also known as feline parvovirus or panleukopenia virus, this is a serious, highly contagious and often fatal disease. Infected cats suffer severe diarrhoea and vomiting.
Vaccinations against feline infectious enteritis are very effective, and all cats and kittens should be vaccinated at least every 3 years.
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
This virus attacks the cat’s immune system, leaving them at risk of infection and illness. Infected cats deteriorate over time and symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, fever, diarrhoea and recurrent respiratory tract infections.
There’s no treatment for feline leukaemia, and secondary infections are common, so vaccination is vital. Read more about Feline leukaemia.
A fragile bacterium that’s transmitted by direct contact between cats, and mainly causes conjunctivitis. Infected cats and kittens experience mild to severe conjunctivitis, runny, sticky eyes, sneezing and nasal discharge that can be treated by antibiotics, but vaccination can be effective at preventing the condition. Read more about Conjunctivitis in cats.
Kittens and younger cats are particularly vulnerable to diseases because of their under-developed immune systems, so it’s vital to get them vaccinated early.
If you’re welcoming a new kitten into the family, get them along to your local vet for their first injections when they’re 8-9 weeks old, and for booster vaccinations 3-4 weeks later.
Your cat will need booster vaccinations on an annual basis, although not every condition needs to be re-vaccinated against every year. Frequency of boosters can also depend on the prominance of certain conditions in your area, and whether or not you plan to travel abroad with your cat.
Once your cat has had their primary vaccination course, your vet will advise when you next need to bring them in for their boosters.
If your cat is an indoor cat, you might be wondering if the same rules apply when it comes to vaccinations.
The only way to make sure that your cat is properly protected from diseases is by vaccinating them, wherever they live.
There are varying degrees of what people define as an 'indoor cat'. Some people will never let their cat outside, whereas others would class their cat as an indoor cat, even if they are allowed in the garden.
It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to vaccinating your cat. Even if you think they will never get out, having them vaccinated will protect them if they ever manage to get out.
Need more info?
For more advice on keeping your cat protected against illness and infection, have a chat with your local vet.