Cat vaccination protects your cat from various diseases caused by bacteria and viruses that they are exposed to. Cat vaccines are important in maintaining your cat’s overall health and longevity. Even though it is scientifically and medically proven to prevent the transmission of fatal feline diseases, some cat owners have concerns about cat vaccinations and their side effects.
We have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about cat vaccinations so that cat owners can have a better understanding of vaccinations and the issues surrounding their use.
Are cat vaccinations required by law?
The UK is rabies-free for more than ninety years, but pets must still be vaccinated when travelling in and out of the country. The main objective of cat vaccination is to protect your cat from infectious diseases. The risk of acquiring diseases is minimised when exposed to bacteria and viruses.
Further, cat vaccination prevents the transmission of some infectious diseases from cats to humans. If your cat is protected against diseases, she will not be able to spread them to people that she regularly interacts with. This is why the UK and some countries are strict in implementing policies requiring vaccination in cats.
What are the recommended cat vaccinations?
There is no one-size-fits-all vaccination plan. The vet would recommend the appropriate cat vaccinations based on the age, health condition, and living situation of the cat.
Here is a list of diseases that cats can be exposed to and can be prevented with proper vaccination. It is recommended that vaccines against these deadly diseases be administered to cats as soon as they are of the right age.
Rabies is a virus that attacks the nervous system and is potentially fatal to cats and other pets. Rabid animals can infect humans through biting and the virus is discharged from the saliva.
Feline infectious enteritis (FIE, feline panleukopenia, feline parvovirus)
This disease is commonly known as feline parvovirus. Cats affected with this disease suffer from diarrhoea and severe vomiting. This disease can be so intense to the extent that it might cause sudden death to your cat with no particular signs or symptoms.
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
Infection with FeLV can wreak havoc to a cat’s immune system which makes them more prone to other viruses. Cats may die from the development of this disease resulting in infections, tumours, or leukaemia or progressive anaemia.
Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV) – Cat flu
These viruses cause ‘cat flu’ which can be fatal to a cat with a weak immune system. Signs of cat flu include skin infections, discharge from the nose and eyes, sneezing, inflamed throat, mouth ulcers, coughing, conjunctivitis, and in some cases, pneumonia.
Feline chlamydophilosis (Chlamydophila felis, feline chlamydophila infection)
The delicate bacterium that causes this infection cannot survive in the environment. It can be transmitted by direct contact between cats which causes conjunctivitis. Infection is common amongst kittens and junior-aged cats in multi-cat households.
Bordetella infection causes upper respiratory tract infections such as nasal discharge and sneezing. This is common in households that have multiple cats.
How frequently should cats be vaccinated?
The frequency and schedule of vaccination would depend on several factors including underlying health conditions, exposure to wild animals, travel plans, and the type of vaccines being considered. These factors may change over time, so it is recommended that cats be subjected to routine annual examinations where the cat owner and the vet can discuss vaccination plans.
Typically, every cat should get the core vaccines that protect them from serious diseases. Kittens must receive shots to protect them from feline panleukopenia, feline herpes, and feline calicivirus. Cats that are more susceptible to infections are recommended to also get the non-core vaccines.
Are there any side effects after cat vaccination?
Cat vaccinations help stimulate your cat’s immune system to create a defence against contagious diseases. Unfortunately, in some incredibly rare cases, vaccinations can cause injection site tumours and immune diseases, which are possibly triggered by pre-existing medical and genetic conditions.
Thankfully, most cats do not exhibit negative effects after cat vaccinations. But it is always good to be on the lookout for side effects so that it can be remedied quickly. Here are some of the possible side effects after a cat vaccination :
- Loss of appetite
- Severe lethargy
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
Is it necessary for a kitten or a cat to get vaccinated?
Yes, kittens must get their shots to protect them against diseases and infections caused by virus and bacteria. Cat owners should be responsible for the well-being of their felines and this includes scheduling cat vaccinations to prevent contagious diseases that can be fatal to small kittens.
How do I know if my feline is ready for cat vaccinations?
New cats should not be given vaccine shots immediately.
It is recommended that cats recently added to the family should wait for two weeks to get vaccinated. They need to properly settle in and adjust to their new environment to make sure they are not stressed out during vaccination. Further, new cats need their health checked first by the vet to ensure that they have no diseases before immunisation.
Do not vaccinate your cat before she reaches six weeks old.
Kittens are born with underdeveloped immune systems which make them incapable of dealing with diseases alone. Luckily, their mothers provide them with a little bit of protection. A mother cat’s milk, also known as colostrum, is rich with antibodies that give kittens temporary immunity against diseases.
If your kitten is given cat vaccination whilst these antibodies are still present in their bodies, it will be ineffective. It is because the antibodies present in the colostrum will negate the effects of the vaccine.
Avoid vaccinating if your cat’s current state of health is still unknown.
Pre-existing medical conditions and living situations are factors to consider when discussing feline vaccinations with your vet. This would help determine the types of vaccines to take as well as the schedule to follow.
If the shots are given to a sick cat, it is less likely to successfully take effect. Experts believe that the vaccine could disturb the immune system, which should be battling the bacteria or virus causing the illness, and divert its attention to the shot instead.
Do not vaccinate your cat if she is experiencing or undergoing:
- Autoimmune disease
- Endocrine/Metabolic disease
Vaccinating your cat whilst she is sick will put a big burden on her immune system to create a defensive reaction. Therefore, it would be an opportunity for the virus to attack. So instead of helping your cat, the shot will only make her current condition worse.
Do not give the cat vaccine shots if deworming is incomplete.
Another cause of vaccination failure in cats is the presence of intestinal parasites in their body. These parasites are commonly found on kittens. The infection may stem from their mothers before or after birth.
The existence of in vitro and in vivo parasites may cause parasitic infections which may lead to immunosuppression or the disablement of the immune system and its ability to combat diseases. Hence, your cat must be dewormed before vaccination to guarantee a positive effect.
Stressed cats should not undergo cat vaccination.
If your cat is prone to stress, you should rethink giving her vaccination. When a feline is stressed, her brain releases adrenaline which can weaken the potency and efficacy of the vaccine.
The most prevalent stressor for felines is the frequent change of environment. It may take a lot of adjustment for them every time they are moved to a different place. This makes them feel frightened and nervous, which is usually unnoticed by their owners.
Can cat vaccination fail?
Yes, vaccination failure can happen. Giving your cat vaccination does not guarantee that she is 100 per cent protected against diseases and infections. Unfortunately, there are times when the vaccine will not take effect. The reasons listed below are the most prevalent causes:
- Maternal antibody interference
If high levels of antibodies from colostrum are present in your kitten’s body, it will neutralise the vaccine. The antigen will block the production of vaccine protection which leads to immunisation failure.
- Improper preservation of vaccine
You are strongly advised to take your cat to a pet hospital for her vaccination because it is more reliable and trustworthy in handling and preserving the vaccines. Cat vaccines must be stored at a temperature of 2°C to 8°C. Avoid acquiring vaccines from unreliable sources since it may not be properly conserved.
- Immunosuppressed felines
Some animals have immunosuppressive diseases, infection of internal and external parasites, or congenital immunodeficiency that makes their immune system susceptible to diseases. It is not able to produce enough antibodies even with the help of the vaccine to fight dangerous foreign bodies.
What is the recommended cat vaccination schedule?
The Best Cat Vaccination Schedules:
- 6 to 8 weeks old – Initial core vaccination
- 10 to 12 weeks – Booster vaccination
- 14 to 16 weeks – Final vaccination
Keep in mind that if the vaccine is administered, its effect is not immediate. It may take about five to ten days for the vaccine to take effect. Your cat’s immunity is not established until she reaches about sixteen to eighteen weeks of age or until the kitten boosters are finished.
The Top Priority is to Keep Your Cat Healthy
Before subjecting your cat to vaccination, remember that she must be physically and mentally healthy. She must be free from stress, parasites, or any infectious diseases to ensure that the cat vaccination will work successfully.
Know more about preventive measures against different cat health concerns here!