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Feline Vaccination

iStock_000008362788XSmall.jpgThe instinctual roaming behavior in cats increases their exposure to other animals. This, in turn, increases the risk of disease. Many diseases that cats can get from other cats are serious. Some are fatal or can seriously jeopardize good health. Fortunately, there are vaccines made available that can greatly decrease the risk of contracting disease. The best way to treat disease is to prevent it altogether. Along with a full physical exam, vaccinating your pet is an effective way of preventing disease and illness.

The following is a list recommended vaccines that help prevent infectious diseases.

Feline Respiratory Infections:

Feline respiratory diseases are highly contagious and widespread within the feline community. Symptoms of these diseases include respiratory signs (sneezing, fever, nasal discharges, runny nose, coughing), conjunctivitis (eyelid infections), mouth ulcers, and general depression.

Direct contact or droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing pass these diseases from one cat to another. What this means is that even a stray cat that outwardly seems healthy may be a 'carrier' infecting your pet, even through a screen window, therefore it is very important to ensure both outdoor and indoor cats are protected.

Fortunately, protection from the most common respiratory diseases is included in one injection. A series of the initial injection is necessary to build the antibody protection needed to help your cat develop a high degree of immunity against these diseases.

The most prevalent and common of the feline respiratory infections are:

Calici Virus

Feline Calici Virus is a common viral respiratory disease in cats. Upper respiratory signs, oral ulceration, pneumonia and occasionally arthritis characterize symptoms of this virus. This respiratory disease is most common in kittens, however, cats of any age may are susceptible to infection.


Feline Rhinotracheitis is a critical disease found in domestic cats. Sneezing, fever, rhinitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose), conjunctivitis (swollen, infected tissues surrounding eye), and ulcerative keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) characterize symptoms of this disease. This disease can also cause miscarriages in pregnant cats.

This disease is common, especially in multicat households, and is susceptible to cats of all ages.

Feline Chlamydia Psittaci

Feline Chlamydiosis is a chronic infection of cats. Conjunctivitis, upper respiratory signs, and mild pneumonia are symptoms that characterize this disease.

This condition is not uncommon. 5-10% of cats are chronically infected. Usually, kittens under 6 months of age are most susceptible, however, it can infect cats of any age.

Feline Panleukopenia

Feline Panleukopenia is also known as "cat distemper". It is highly contagious and is often fatal in young cats. Signs include depression, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration, weakness, tremors, and in coordination. It is easily transmitted from cat to cat.

Kittens are vaccinated against Panleukopenia in a series of boosters (6wks, 8wks, 12wks, 16wks). After this initial series, cats are vaccinated once yearly.

Feline Rabies

Rabies is a fatal viral infection of the nervous system that affects all warm-blooded animals. Because Rabies is also a threat to humans, it is the only vaccine required by law.

Rabies is transmitted though the bite of an infected animal. Infected animals tend to become withdrawn and avoid contact with humans and other animals. Some become unnaturally aggressive and may attack. Death always occurs once clinical signs appear. Cats tend to contract this disease more often than dogs. Even indoor cats may become infected if contacted with an infected animal in the basement, garage or attic. There are no cures for rabies. Vaccination is extremely important. Cats are vaccinated with rabies at 16 weeks of age, boosted 1 year later, then every 3 years.

Feline Leukemia (FeLV)

Feline Leukemia is a cancer-causing virus that suppresses the ability for the cat's immune system to fight other infections. Kittens can be born with the virus, and cats can live for years before showing any signs of the disease. Feline Leukemia cannot be passed on to humans or dogs. Once signs develop, there is no cure.

Feline Leukemia is highly contagious from cat to cat. Licking, sneezing, fighting, sharing food dishes or litter pans may spread it! Many stray cats are infected with this disease, and it one of the major causes of death in cats today. Due to the seriousness of the disease, any cat that has any type of contact with the outdoors or other cats that go outdoors will need to be vaccinated once yearly.

How Do Vaccines Work:

Vaccines work by preventing infection and decreasing the physical symptoms of disease. Vaccines contain altered viruses or bacteria (these altered states don't cause disease). At the time of vaccination, your pet's body will produce antibodies in response to the introduction of these altered viruses. These antibodies will destroy any disease causing viruses or bacteria that are subsequently exposed to your pet.

The protection provided by the vaccine will gradually decrease over time. This is why your pet will need boosters at regular intervals.

Kitten Vaccination Schedules:

In their first year of life, kittens require a lot of care and attention. A series of vaccinations is given in the first year to help ensure a healthy beginning. At every vaccination appointment, a full physical examination is performed by the doctor to make sure that your kitten is growing and developing properly.

8 wk - rhinotracheitis, calici virus, panleukopenia

12 wk - rhinotracheitis, calici virus, panleukopenia, chlamydia & feline leukemia virus (FeLV)

16 wk - rhinotracheitis, calici virus, panleukopenia, chlamydia, FeLV, rabies (1yr vaccine) & feline leukemia (FeLV)

1 yr - rhinotracheitis, calici virus, panleukopenia, chlamydia, FeLV, rabies(3 yr vaccine) & leukemia for high risk pets

Why do Kittens Require Boosters?

A kitten that is nursing will receive maternal antibodies passed through its mother's milk. These maternal antibodies will protect the kitten from disease during its first few months, gradually declining in efficacy over time. These maternal antibodies will interfere with any vaccinations given and make them ineffective. Kittens need to be given a series of boosters within their first 4 months of life to gradually stimulate the production of the kitten's own antibodies while minimizing the interference of its maternal antibodies.

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