The Essential Cat Vaccines For A Healthy Cat

essential cat vaccines

Cat vaccines help to ensure the long-term health and well-being of your cat. Vaccinations for cats not only protect them from potentially fatal diseases but also help prevent the spread of infectious diseases to other cats and humans.

Core vaccines protect against critical diseases such as Feline Distemper, Herpesvirus, Calicivirus, Leukemia and Rabies,

While the need for non-core vaccines varies based on a cat’s lifestyle and specific risk factors.

In this article, you’ll learn which important vaccines your cat needs to be healthy. We’ll also show you when kittens and adult cats should get their shots and what to do if there are any side effects.

What Are The Core Vaccines For Your Cat?

Core vaccines are the must-have shots for all cats. They usually help protect your kitty from the really common and serious sicknesses that can spread easily or make them very sick.

1. Feline Calicivirus (FCV)

In severe cases, it can affect the lungs and lead to pneumonia which can be life-threatening.

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is similar to the cold virus in humans but it’s specific to our feline friends. Some even call this disease the ‘cat flu’.

FCV can spread easily from one cat to another, especially in shelters or homes with multiple cats. This hardy virus can survive on surfaces for more than a month.

Such infectious organisms are why a comprehensive vaccination program is essential for your cat.

While some cats might only get mild symptoms, others can get really sick. The virus can lead to painful ulcers in the mouth, upper respiratory infections and sometimes lameness or stiffness in the joints.

In severe cases, it can affect the lungs and lead to pneumonia which can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of Feline Calicivirus include:

  • Sneezing and a runny nose
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating due to mouth ulcers
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Swollen joints or lameness

2. Feline Distemper

Feline distemper, also known as feline panleukopenia infection is a serious disease that affects cats.

This disease is especially dangerous because it attacks a cat’s immune system, making it hard for them to fight off other illnesses.

This virus is very hardy as well and can easily spread between unvaccinated cats via bodily fluids.

Feline distemper can make cats extremely ill very quickly. The virus targets growing cells in a cat’s body, like those in their bone marrow and intestines.

This can lead to severe problems like vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and in some cases can be fatal.

Kittens, pregnant cats and sick cats are especially at risk because their immune systems are weaker in general.

Symptoms of Feline Distemper include:

  • High fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Weakness and depression
  • Dehydration

3. Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1)

The FHV-1 virus is highly contagious and only unique to cats. Once a cat is infected with Herpesvirus, it stays with it for life.

The virus is often transmitted from mother to kitten or among cats living in close quarters.

Feline Herpesvirus, also known as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, spreads through direct contact with infected cats’ eye and nose discharges. It can also spread by using the same bedding and food bowls.

While some cats may experience only minor issues or others may suffer from chronic symptoms or severe flare-ups throughout their lives.

The stronger a cat’s immune system, the better the chances of it stopping a flare-up. But infected cats can still spread the virus without looking sick.

Symptoms of Feline Herpesvirus include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Eye and nasal discharge
  • Blindness
  • Pink eye

Related Article: Must-Have Items For Your Cat

4. Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

Because FeLV affects the immune system, infected cats are also more likely to develop infections in the skin, urinary tract and respiratory system.

Feline Leukemia Virus or FeLV is a serious disease that is known for weakening a cat’s immune system. This makes them more vulnerable to other infections and diseases, including anemia and lymphoma.

The Feline Leukemia Virus is spread mainly through close contact among cats. The virus can be passed from one cat to another through saliva and blood.

Transmission can also happen when coming into contact with urine and feces.

Sharing food and water dishes, grooming each other and bites during fights are other common ways cats can transmit FeLV. Kittens can also contract the virus from their mothers.

Early stages of the infection may not show any signs, making it hard to detect without testing.

Common symptoms of FeLV include:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Pale gums (anemia)
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Respiratory issues
  • Fever

Because FeLV affects the immune system, infected cats are also more likely to develop infections in the skin, urinary tract and respiratory system.

My cat has FeLV as a kitten and he keeps having chronic ear infections which need constant cleaning.

5. Rabies

Rabies is a deadly virus that affects the nervous system of mammals, including cats. It is considered a zoonotic disease as it can be passed on to humans.

The rabies vaccination is required by law in many countries and it’s a criminal offence to not have your pet vaccinated.

Rabies in cats is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, making prevention through vaccination crucial for all cats, especially if you let your pet cat roam outdoors.

Cats can get the rabies virus if they are bitten by a rabid wild infected animal such as bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.

The virus can also be transmitted if infected saliva comes into contact with an open cut or the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Symptoms of Rabies include:

  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Unprovoked aggression
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Excessive drooling
  • Respiratory failure

What Are Non-Core Vaccines For Cats?

cat getting injection

Non-core vaccines for cats are vaccinations that aren’t necessary for every cat but may be recommended based on a cat’s lifestyle, environment and risk of exposure to certain diseases.

Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what vaccines are best suited for your cat.

Here are some of the more common non-core vaccines.

1. Bordetella

Bordetella is known as “kennel cough” in dogs but this bacteria can also affect cats, leading to respiratory infections.

The main culprit for the disease is caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe respiratory distress.

Vaccination against Bordetella is especially recommended for cats in multi-pet households, those that frequent boarding facilities or show cats.

2. Chlamydia

Chlamydia or Chlamydophila felis in cats can lead to conjunctivitis or painful inflammation of the eyes. It’s a significant cause of chronic eye problems, especially in kittens and young cats.

This condition can cause discomfort and if left untreated may lead to more serious eye issues.

The Chlamydia infection spreads among cats through direct contact with saliva or discharge from the eyes.

Cats living in crowded conditions are at a higher risk of getting infected. Kittens can get it from their mothers too.

Vaccination against Chlamydia may be recommended for cats at living in areas with known outbreaks or high-density living conditions.

When Should I Vaccinate My Cat?

An indoor cat would require fewer booster shots as compared to a household with multiple cats that are allowed outdoors.

If you have a kitten, your cat can get the first shot once it turns 6-8 weeks of age. A follow-up booster jab is given every 3-4 weeks until your cat is about 4-5 months old.

The efficacy of the vaccines is always improving. As a rule of thumb, it is advised to give your cat a booster every 1-3 years depending on the risk exposure of your cat.

An indoor cat would require fewer booster vaccines as compared to a household with multiple cats that are allowed outdoors.

Your vet may adjust the vaccination schedule based on your cat’s specific needs and any pre-existing health issues.

What Side Effects Can My Cat Have After Being Vaccinated?

Your cat may experience some side effects after being vaccinated. Serious complications are rare as the vaccines have good safety profiles.

The benefits of vaccinating your cat far outweigh the risks, protecting against these life-threatening diseases.

Most side effects are mild and short-lived which indicates that the vaccine is prompting an immune response. This is a good sign.

Here are some common side effects.

  • Lethargy
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discomfort and swelling at injection site
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Limping of injected leg

If you notice any severe or persistent symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Related Article: Guide For New Cat Owners

Is There A Vaccine For Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?

FIV in cats is another auto-immune disease that is similar to AIDS in humans.

The FIV vaccine was once available in America from 2002 to 2017 but was eventually discontinued. Primarily, the vaccine was deemed unnecessary for indoor cats, who are at low risk of contracting FIV compared to outdoor cats.

The vaccine provided incomplete protection against FIV, covering only certain virus strains and leaving cats vulnerable to others.

The annual booster shots raised worries about a type of cancer called sarcoma at the injection site.

Cats that got the vaccine sometimes showed false positive test results for FIV because of the antibodies from the vaccine.

These factors collectively led to the discontinuation of the FIV vaccine.

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