The definition of vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. Vaccines in cats fall into two different categories, Core and Non-Core. Core vaccines are ones that all cats should receive. Non-Core vaccines are ones that not all cats should receive, they are given depending on an individual cat’s needs.
Here are the main vaccines that we give at the Cat Hospital:
FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia) vaccine – also known as the Feline Distemper vaccine – protects against the upper respiratory viruses as well as feline enteritis, which are all highly contagious. Kittens can be vaccinated for this starting at 6-8 weeks of age, they need to be given a booster vaccine 3-4 weeks later (some may need more than one booster vaccine, depending on the age they got their first vaccine). Adult cats receiving their first FVRCP vaccine will also need a booster vaccine 3-4 weeks later. A year after the initial FVRCP vaccine series, cats need to come in for another booster, but this one will last for 3 years. Cats will then need to be revaccinated for FVRCP every 3 years.
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in warm-blooded animals. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. It can be transmitted from animals to people, most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. Cats can get the rabies vaccine starting at 4 months of age. They must come in a year after the initial rabies vaccine to get a booster vaccine, this one will last for 3 years. Cats will then need to be revaccinated for rabies every 3 years.
***Rabies vaccines are required by law, regardless if your cat is indoors only.***
Feline Leukemia vaccine (aka FELV vaccine)
This vaccine protects against the feline leukemia virus, which is a retrovirus virus meaning that the virus can copy its genetic material into healthy cells. FELV affects the cat’s body in many ways. It is the most common cause of cancer in cats, it may cause various blood disorders, and it attacks the immune system which leaves cats vulnerable to secondary diseases and infections. FELV is spread by direct contact with infected cats – it is usually transmitted in the saliva (through mutual grooming, biting and sneezing), but low levels of the virus can be found in urine and feces, thus transmission through shared food bowls, water dishes and litterpans is also possible.
The FELV vaccine is not recommended for all cats, it is recommended for those cats that are at risk for catching FELV – cats that go outside and cats that live in a household with FELV positive cats. It can be given to cats starting at 8 weeks of age, it is given in a series of 2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart. Cats will need to be revaccinated for FELV every year.
What vaccines are right for your cat? Each cat is different and has different needs, feel free to discuss the vaccines with our veterinarian when you are in with your cat.
For more information about feline vaccines, go to the Cornell Feline Health Center’s Feline Vaccines Website.