Have you just brought a new kitty home? Congratulations on your tiny addition to the household. However, having a pet means taking responsibility for their health. Outdoor or indoor cats are basically healthy and independent creatures, but they do need regular vaccines to keep them in purr-fect health.
Immediately after your sweet little kitten is born, nursing from their mother’s milk provides natural antibodies and temporary immunity against disease in the form of colostrum. This provides a measure of passive immunity against illnesses and diseases. However, as your kitten grows older, they will need extra vaccinations to keep them safe from harmful germs and diseases.
Therefore, certain vaccinations are recommended and necessary to keep your kitty healthy. Some vaccines are recommended specifically for indoor cats. However, if your kitten mixes with an outdoor cat or other pets, such as a dog that goes in and out of the house, or your cat goes outdoors from time to time, they may need additional vaccinations.
Essential Immunization And Vaccinations
Your little fur baby will need vaccines from around six to eight weeks of age. These shots will be repeated every three to four weeks until they are four months old. The most routine vaccinations are those against Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia), Calicivirus, and Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, otherwise known as Feline Herpes Virus 1. This combination, known as FCRVP, is administered as one shot altogether. Your cat will also need a vaccination against Rabies. The Rabies shot is usually administered at three to four months old. A follow-up Rabies shot is usually given at one year of age, then further vaccinations every three years.
The most important point here is the time schedule, which is crucial to ensure that your kitty receives their vaccinations during the period between gaining natural maternal immunization via the mother’s milk and being exposed to harmful diseases.
Side Effects: There may be some side effects with cat shots (similar to human vaccinations), which can include a slight fever, localized swelling at the site of the vaccination, and a temporary reduction in appetite. These symptoms usually ease within a few days, but consult your vet if you are worried about your cat’s post-vaccination symptoms. In very rare instances, cats may develop allergic reactions to immunization, but figures are between 1 to 10 cats per 10,000 of all vaccinations carried out.
Very rarely, vaccinations can cause tissue trauma which leads to Feline Injection Site Sarcoma (FISS), a form of cancer. This necessitates surgically aggressive removal of the tumour and may even result in losing a limb. Don’t worry; this is far from the normal reaction to vaccinations and only occurs in about the same percentage as other allergic reactions, i.e. 1 to 10 cats per 10,000 vaccinated. The benefits of immunising your cat or kitten far outweigh the potential risks of post-immunization, severe reactions.
Vaccinations should be repeated once every one to three years, depending on your cat’s circumstances and your vet’s recommendations.
Additional Vaccines For Kittens
Your vet will advise you if these are necessary for your cat, depending on his or her lifestyle. For example, if Chlamydophila is prevalent in the area where you live and your cat mixes and mingles with outdoor cats or goes outside on occasion, you may be advised to vaccinate your kitty against this disease. Another disease carried by outdoor cats is Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which may also be added to the vaccine mix.
What Common Diseases In Cats Require Core Vaccinations?
Panleukopenia or Feline Distemper: Unfortunately, this is a severe disease caused by a virus (Parvovirus), with debilitating symptoms and high mortality (up to 90 per cent). Vaccination does provide immunity to FPLV but is not completely effective in controlling Distemper in the overall cat population since the virus is so widely spread. Kittens are most at risk of succumbing to the Feline Distemper virus, which is why vaccinating against this disease is so important. The virus is transmitted via the cat’s secretions, primarily through the faeces, saliva, and urine.
Symptoms include breathing difficulties, such as excessive sneezing. The cat’s eyes may water, and its breathing becomes more and more laboured, often with eye discharge. Fever and loss of balance are other signs and symptoms of this illness. The disease may progress to loose stools, vomiting, and pale skin and mouth mucosa. This disease progresses quickly, even in a few hours, and can cause fatality in young kittens. The virus against Panleukopenia is effective, provided the recommended vaccination schedule is adhered to.
Feline Calicivirus: This is an infection that is caused by a virus (caliciviridae family) and leads to respiratory infection. There are many different strains of this virus, some more virulent than others. The virus spreads via contact with infected cats through saliva, faeces, blood, and nasal and eye mucus. Most cats infected with this disease do recover, thankfully.
Symptoms can include weight loss, miscarriages in pregnant female cats, fever, and sometimes gingivitis (infection of the gums). The most common symptoms are sneezing, nasal congestion, fever, and drooling. More severe forms of this illness can be fatal, and symptoms may include swelling of the head and legs, body sores, hair loss, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR): This is also called “Feline Influenza” or “Feline Coryza” and is a virally-transmitted upper respiratory disease. It is very contagious and can cause death from pneumonia in young kittens. It is transmitted entirely by direct contact.
Symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, coughing, sneezing, and ocular (eye) problems, such as excessive tear production. Current vaccinations limit the severity of this disease but do not prevent spreading.
Rabies: This disease is typically found in outdoor animals, such as foxes, wild dogs, raccoons, bats, and birds. It is carried like a virus in an infected animal’s saliva through bites which spread to infected wounds and membranes. Outdoor cats that fight with infected animals can catch this virulent disease in this way. Humans can develop Rabies after being bitten by an infected cat.
Symptoms include aggression, disorientation, restlessness or lethargy, and generally unusual behaviour. Rabies vaccinations in cats are usually extremely effective and necessary for human safety and your cat.
Diseases Which Your Vet May Add Vaccines To The Core Mix
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV): This is a disease that only affects cats or kittens. It can be transferred from one cat to another via saliva, faeces, or your cat being bitten by another infected animal. Kittens and young adult cats are more susceptible to this infection than older animals. Most indoor cats are not vulnerable to this particular disease. However, the risk is more pronounced when your cat goes outdoors. Thankfully, in recent years, the prevalence of this disease has been much reduced due to effective vaccinations and testing.
Symptoms include weight loss, loss of appetite, swelling of the lymph nodes, difficulty in breathing, general lethargy and weakness, and yellowing of the mucosa of the eyes and mouth.
Chlamydophila: This is a bacterial infection in cats and is relatively common. It is most commonly seen in kittens or when groups of outdoor and indoor cats are kept together. The disease is easily spread from one infected cat to another, so if one cat is kept with others in the home, all should be treated for this disease.
Symptoms usually commence with eye problems. The C. felis bacteria cause the cat or kitten’s eyes to water with a yellowy discharge (conjunctivitis in one or both eyes), and your cat may have respiratory symptoms such as sneezing. They may go off their food. Vaccines are quite effective in reducing the spread of Chlamydophila since the organism does not live long in the environment.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica: This is a pathogen that is spread in infected cats’ oral and nasal secretions. Cats can catch this disease from dogs, and it is very contagious. Bordetella is especially prevalent in animal shelters where cats and dogs are intermingled. Symptoms may include retching, upper respiratory problems such as coughing, watery nasal discharge, and in severe cases, pneumonia and fever.
The vaccination against Bordatella is effective in cats above the age of one month; however, no vaccine is completely effective against this illness.
For your cat’s good health, as well as for your own, vaccinating is essential when caring for your kitten. Though indoor cats are essentially clean and usually healthy animals, they may come into contact with other cats who carry diseases. For your cat’s protection, head to the vet as soon as your cat is around six weeks old and follow up with their vaccines as advised. That way, both you and your cat can hope to stay happy, healthy, and far away from nasty germs and diseases.