Cat Vaccination – Pet tip 139
Vaccination is one of the simplest and most effective ways to help your cat live a long and healthy life. Some of the most common and deadly feline diseases can be prevented through an annual (or even less frequent) booster. Of course, not every cat needs to be vaccinated against every disease. A vaccination protocol for your individual pet should be based on a number of factors including age, history, environment and lifestyle; these are just some of the things you should discuss with your veterinarian at your cat’s annual appointment. Developing a vaccination protocol means deciding upon which vaccines your cat will receive, and also at what time intervals the vaccines will be administered. To better understand how your veterinarian plans your cat’s protocol, it helps to know the basics about how vaccines work, and which ones are available.
Vaccinations work by stimulating your cat or kitten’s immune system against a particular virus, bacteria, or other disease-causing agent. The vaccines themselves consist of an altered or killed form of the organism, which is able to activate cells of the immune system, but cannot actually cause disease. Once your cat has generated an immune response against the vaccine, it will have the necessary antibodies to defend itself in case it encounters the real virus.
Generally, kittens are first vaccinated around eight or nine weeks of age. Before this time, kittens use antibodies they acquire from their mother’s milk, and vaccination is neither required nor recommended. The maternal antibodies tend to drop off at two months of age, and this is when you (and your veterinarian) must step in to ensure you cat remains protected. After this initial set of vaccinations, your kitten will likely return for one or two more appointments (with three or four weeks in between) to receive booster vaccinations. These frequent boosters are only necessary when a cat or kitten is receiving a vaccination for the first time, after that, most vaccines require only an annual booster. Better yet, some newer vaccines will only require a boost every three years. Of course, your cat should still be examined by a veterinarian at least annually.
The core vaccinations for cats (those which are recommended for almost every cat) are for those diseases which are common, contagious, and serious. These include, but are not limited to, vaccines for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Feline Calicivirus, and Feline Panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper). Rabies vaccination is not only recommended, but legally required in many areas. Because today’s vaccines can combine more than one organism, administering these core vaccinations usually requires only two actually injections (one for Rabies, and one for the rest).
In addition to the above vaccines, cats in a higher risk category may receive vaccinations against several other diseases. For example, vaccines for the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) are often administered to cats that spend time outdoors. Other ‘non-core’ vaccines include one for Feline Chlamydiosis and Feline infectious Peritonitis.
The use of and need for all of the above mentioned vaccines will vary across veterinary clinics and between regions, because certain infectious agents are more common in some place than others. It is important to discuss with your veterinarian which diseases are prevalent in the area you live in, and thus which ones your cat might be exposed to.
By Alison Norwich – Pets.ca writer