Vaccinations and vaccination protocols are the subject of continual debate. Recently, there has been a lot of negative press about the risk that vaccinations carry for humans and pets. It should not be forgotten, though, that vaccines play an important role in protecting cats from potentially deadly diseases.
The debate will most likely continue, but according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), the core vaccines (those vaccines that are deemed indispensable) for all cats in the US are:
- Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
- Panleukopenia Virus (FPV)
- Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1)
- FCV, FPV and FHV-1 are commonly administered as a combination vaccine
- All kittens should receive two vaccinations 3 - 4 weeks apart between the age of 6 - 16 weeks
- All kittens should have a booster 1 year after
- then every 3 years
Vaccinations deemed non-core (based on circumstance) are:
- Bordetella bronchiseptica
- Chlamydophilia felis
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
Your veterinarian will be able to guide you on whether to vaccinate against these diseases and the decision will be based on risk of exposure.
Vaccination against rabies is essential in regions where it is required by statute/law or where the virus is endemic. When vaccinating against rabies, a single initial dose is given and then annually as a booster (unless a three-year interval is licensed for the product used).
The advisory panel recommends that all cats under one year of age be vaccinated against FeLV and receive a booster vaccination one year later. After the booster, the need for subsequent vaccination is determined by risk factors that the individual pet is exposed to.
It is recommended to test a cat for FIV and FeLV prior to vaccination.
Vaccination of Cats Living in Indoor/Outdoor Households
Cats kept exclusively in the house generally do not need vaccination beyond the core vaccines. In households with multiple cats, where at least one of the cats has outdoor access, the risk to exposure of other viruses increases. It may be that your veterinarian recommends FeLV and Rabies if exposure risk is deemed significant.
Vaccination of Cats Going Into Boarding Facilities
Usually, adult cats in good health only require boosters for the core vaccines every three years, but it may be warranted to give a supplementary booster 7-10 days before to boarding.
It is not advisable to board kittens unless absolutely necessary; if so, a minimum of two doses of the core vaccines should be administered, with the last dose 7-10 days before entry. Kittens should be isolated from the community of adult cats at all times while boarding.
Vaccination of Pregnant and Lactating Cats
It is generally not recommended to vaccinate cats during pregnancy or lactation. Queens should receive vaccinations prior to breeding. If vaccination is deemed essential because endemic disease risk is high, then modified-live FPV vaccines should be avoided.
Vaccination For Cats That are Overdue for Revaccination
If a previously vaccinated cat is overdue for re-vaccination, generally only a single vaccination is required. If the status of prior vaccinations is unknown, it should be assumed the cat is unvaccinated.
What Are the Potential Adverse Effects Of Vaccination?
Administering vaccinations is never free from risk, but in general, cat vaccines have an excellent safety record. Possible adverse effects are:
- Anaphylaxis and Allergic Reactions
- Feline injection-site sarcoma (FISS)
- Injection site infection / abscess
- Transient postvaccinal nonspecific illness (temporary lethargy, anorexia, fever)
If you are concerned about the risks of repeat vaccinations, speak to your veterinarian about antibody titer tests that can be performed to assess whether your pet is sufficiently protected. More and more veterinarians are standardizing the use of these tests to make sure the right vaccination strategy is used for their patients.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian