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    Cat Vaccines - What Shots Does Your Cat Need?

    Cat Vaccines

    As a cat owner, your trusted companion’s health is vital to protect, given the myriad health conditions and infectious diseases that can threaten your pet’s longevity. Explore the essential cat vaccinations designed to keep your furry friend purring. 

    How Do Vaccines Work?

    Once your veterinarian has vaccinated your cat, its immune system will go through an adaptive period where opportunistic infectious agents are ‘recognized’ by producing proteins called antibodies, which tear down these agents. 

    Your vaccinated cat may encounter these infectious agents in the future. However, its immune system will rapidly generate antibodies that produce an immune response, eliminating the agent.

    Types Of Cat Vaccines

    The importance of vaccines for cats and their contribution to your feline’s overall health can’t be overstated. Understanding the types of vaccinations will make it easier for you to have a conversation with your veterinarian regarding the preventative care for crippling and often fatal feline diseases.

    Modified Live Vaccines

    Modified live vaccines (MLV) contain an impaired, viable virus that may still replicate but doesn’t cause any disease. MLVs are convenient in the sense that one dose can provide your cat with rapid, long-lasting protection that is less likely to cause allergic reactions. 

    Killed (Inactivated) Vaccines 

    Inactivated vaccines use a killed version of a germ that may cause disease. While they usually don’t provide immunity protection that’s as strong as MLV, it has proven to cover a wide variety of disease prevention possibilities. Inactivated vaccines work as booster shots, which means that if signs that your cat is sick emerge, your pet may require several doses over time to obtain proper immunity against diseases. 

    Subunit Vaccines

    Another form of shots for cats is subunit vaccines, which only include parts of the virus or bacteria, or subunits, instead of the entire germ. Because these vaccines contain only the essential antigens and not all the other molecules that make up the germ, side effects are less common.

    When Should You Vaccinate Your Cat?

    Before we dive into the details, let’s talk about maternal antibodies first. Your newborn kitty isn’t naturally immune to diseases. Fortunately, it has some protection to help it through the first few stages of life, and this is mostly thanks to the mother’s blood from the placenta while it’s still in the womb. 

    With that in mind, your kitten should get its vaccinations at around six to eight weeks old, up until 16 weeks. If your cat insurance covers this, they need to be ‘boosted’ one year later. However, the exact timing will depend on the type of vaccine your vet uses. 

    Two of these injections are administered between weeks eight to 12 weeks. During this period, It’s vital to remember that your kitty must refrain from socializing with other cats and any outdoor activity for a week or so after the second injection. 

    How Often Should You Vaccinate Your Cat?

    Boosting vaccinations will usually follow in a series of three to four weeks for kittens. It’s traditionally handled every three years for adult cats, depending on how long a vaccine is designed to last. 

    These vaccinations are dependent on several pre-existing medical conditions and the particular home lifestyle of your cat. Your vet will likely outline a more detailed schedule, but the average indoor house feline is usually subjected to the following vaccination timeline:

    • Six to ten weeks: FVRCP (Feline Distemper)
    • 11 to 14 weeks: FVRCP (Feline Distemper) FeLV (Feline Leukemia)
    • 15+ weeks: FVRCP (Feline Distemper), FeLV (Feline Leukemia), Rabies vaccine

    Adult cat vaccination is administered one year after their kitten series ends. It usually contains a combination vaccine of FVRCP and FeLV for cats who may be exposed to feline leukemia (especially outdoorsy, unsupervised cats) and rabies. 

    Is There 100% Protection?

    Vaccinating your cat once it has fallen ill will not stimulate enough immunity for your pet to be protected or heal, for that matter. While there is no 100% guarantee that a vaccine may work, there are factors that are proven to assist in the overall immunity of most cats once they have been vaccinated:

    • Immunity takes time to develop and can only happen two to three weeks after all the primary vaccinations have been administered
    • If you ensure that your kitten is vaccinated no later than 18 weeks of age, their immune system may be able to fight off any opportunistic diseases
    • Vaccinations work best in conjunction with proper nutrition and sanitary conditions
    • Prevention is almost always better than the actual cure - and also less expensive 

    Risks Of Cat Vaccination

    With any medical intervention, there are always mild reactions that present themselves in some instances. Generally, mild fevers, lethargy, diminished appetite, and localized swelling may occur within hours after the vaccination. These side-effects usually subside within a few days, so there is no cause for concern. 

    An allergic reaction occurs typically in one to ten cases for every 10,000 cat vaccines administered. There are cases of severe (yet infrequent) allergic reactions worth monitoring, and if your cat shows any of these symptoms below, contact your vet immediately:

    • Breathing difficulties and fever
    • Extreme weakness and fatigue
    • Vomiting and diarrhea
    • Pale gums

    At times, localized swelling may arise where the vaccination was administered. If this persists for more than three weeks, you need to reach your vet to determine whether treatment is necessary. It’s important to remember that the benefits of appropriate vaccination for your feline friend outweigh the potential risks of foregoing this preventative treatment. 

    The 6 Most Important Vaccines For Cats

    Vaccines for cats can be divided into two sections of administration: core and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are considered to be essential for all cats (because of the widespread and severe diseases that exist). Non-core vaccines, on the other hand, apply only to feline companions who are at a high risk of exposure to infections and only if the preventative treatment would provide sufficient protection. 

    The most vital vaccines for cats that fall into these two categories are explained in greater depth below.

    Feline Panleukopenia Infection (FPV)

    Also known as Feline Parvovirus or Feline infectious Enteritis, this severe and often fatal disease may cause hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Outbreaks of this disease are a relatively common occurrence and can result in an early demise. 

    Fortunately, vaccination against this virus is highly effective and plays a pivotal role in protecting cats against this super contagious virus. Because this virus is stubborn, it survives for long periods in the environment. Vaccination is the only appropriate way to safeguard your pet against this medical indication. 

    Feline Chlamydiosis

    This bacterial disease causes Between 15 to 20% of all feline respiratory diseases. It is highly contagious, and the infection rate is usually more intense among younger kittens. Local infection of the eyes’ mucus membranes will be the first stage of Feline Chlamydiosis. Quite often, it also spreads to the lungs. This disease can also be transmitted to humans by direct contact. 

    Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) 

    Feline Leukemia Virus is spread through vectors like fighting, mutual grooming, and sharing water or food bowls. FeLV causes a wide variety of health issues in cats that are infected. These health issues may include immunosuppression, anemia, and lymphoma. This severe virus may often be fatal. 

    Feline Respiratory Virus Infection (FVR)

    This virus forms part of the upper respiratory infection complex (cat flu) in cats. While it may not be as common as other forms of cat flu, it does present its own set of problems, especially in stressed cats or those from large colonies. Occasionally, secondary infections may cause pneumonia in young kittens. 


    This prevalent disease tends to be more commonplace in canines, but felines are also susceptible to this infection. Vaccination has been clinically proven to prevent the disease and is highly recommended whenever rabies are present in a country or region.

    Feline Infectious Peritonitis 

    Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease most commonly caused by certain strains of feline enteric coronavirus (FECV). Most strains of this coronavirus are found in the gastrointestinal tract and don’t cause significant disease. 

    Cats infected with FECV usually don’t usually show any symptoms during the initial viral infection but may occasionally experience brief bouts of diarrhea and mild upper respiratory signs from which they recover spontaneously.