Last week we talked about what vaccines are available and recommended for dogs. This week we’re going to look at cats. Unfortunately, a lot of cats miss out on annual exams and vaccines. People tend to see cats as very self-sufficient, and this combined with cats being experts at hiding signs of illness means a lot of cats miss out on routine care. We really like to see cats in at least annually because there are so many diseases that can be treated much more successfully if they are caught early.
As with dogs, we try to tailor our vaccines for cats to each individual’s lifestyle. There are fewer vaccines to recommend for cats, so this is quite a bit less complicated than with dogs.
There are two vaccines we recommend for all cats.
The first one, of course, is Rabies. All healthy cats should be vaccinated for rabies, even cats who do not go outside. There is always the potential for an indoor kitty to one day decide to go on an adventure. And there is also the potential for bats, one of the more common rabies carriers, to get into your house. If your cats are anything like mine, they will be all about hunting that very interesting fluttering creature, and the risk of having one of them bitten by a rabid bat is just not worth it. And as with dogs, rabies vaccination is required by state law for all cats and kittens 12 weeks and older. It is not just about keeping your cat protected; rabies can be transmitted to humans and if not treated promptly is nearly always fatal. We don’t want anybody to have to deal with that.
The first rabies vaccine given to a cat is good for one year. After that, if it is boostered on time, all subsequent vaccinations will be good for three years.
The other vaccine we recommend for all cats is the FVRCP combination vaccine, also known as the Distemper vaccine. This vaccine offers protection from four different diseases, three of which affect the upper respiratory tract (Rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, and Chlamydia) and one which infects the intestinal tract causing profuse vomiting, diarrhea, and fever and is frequently fatal (Panleukopenia). Again, we recommend that all cats, whether they live indoors only or go outside and mingle with other cats, receive this vaccine. After the initial kitten series, this vaccine is given at one year, again at two years, and then becomes a three year vaccine if kept up to date.
Lifestyle comes in to play with our last vaccine.
We only recommend that cats who go outside outside and potentially interact with other cats and cats who do not go outside but are regularly exposed to cats who do receive the Feline Leukemia vaccine. This is a contagious disease that affects the immune system. Approximately 50% of infected cats die within six months, and 80% within three years. We recommend that all new kittens be tested for it, especially if being brought into a home with another cat. Because there is a somewhat higher risk of vaccine-associated tumors with the Feline Leukemia vaccine, we do not typically recommend it for cats who are not at significant risk.
And that covers our feline vaccines. As always, if you have any questions, please contact our office. We will be happy to answer them for you and to help you clarify which vaccines your cat should be receiving in order to keep them as healthy as possible.