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Cat Vaccinations

Vaccinations are a simple and effective way to improve your cat’s quality of life and prolong their life expectancy. Appropriate vaccinations can help prevent many common feline diseases, such as upper respiratory disease and feline leukemia. Vaccination for rabies is crucial for cats that have unsupervised access to the outdoors. The viral diseases for which vaccinations provide protection can be spread via eating other animals, fighting with other animals, and even sharing food or grooming other animals.

Does my indoor cat need to be vaccinated?

While you and your veterinarian may choose to forego some vaccinations for your indoor cat, there are still some recommended for all cats regardless of their lifestyle. Even if you plan to keep your cat strictly indoors, accidental trips outside are always a possibility. If your indoor cat is not an escape artist, you could still expose them to viruses via your contact with other cats outside the house or by adopting new animals and bringing them into your home. Your veterinarian can discuss vaccination in detail with you and make an individual plan based on your cat’s risk assessment.

What are FVRCP and core vaccines for cats?

The core vaccine for all cats, indoor and outdoor, is known as FVRCP, which is an abbreviation summarizing the three components of this combination vaccine. This vaccine protects against three viruses – feline herpes virus (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis), Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Feline herpes virus and calicivirus both cause upper respiratory disease, which may lead to sneezing, eye infections, and fever. While some cats can eliminate calicivirus from their system, some become chronic carriers and can show signs of infection again later in life, as well as spread the virus to other cats. Feline herpes virus is more problematic, as it becomes incorporated into a cat’s DNA, and will continue to cause upper respiratory signs throughout a cat’s life during times of stress. Lifelong struggles with respiratory illness can be frustrating for owners and limiting to a cat’s quality of life.

Kittens will generally receive their first FVRCP vaccination between 8 to 10 weeks old, with a booster occurring 4 weeks later. A booster 1 year after their last kitten vaccine is recommended, and then boosters every 3 years afterward.

Rabies and feline leukemia (FeLV) vaccinations are not considered core vaccines, as not all cats will receive them. These vaccines are typically administered to outdoor cats, but may also be important for indoor cats that may have contact (even indirect) with unvaccinated cats or those that may attend a boarding facility.

Feline leukemia is a viral infection, which causes immunosuppression (weakens your pet’s immune system). It is transmitted through saliva, blood, urine and feces. It is sometimes called the “friendly cat virus”, as cats who share food or litter boxes and groom each other may pass it between themselves. Cats infected with FeLV often have a shortened lifespan.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease transmitted via saliva or blood from other infected animals. Rabies is zoonotic, meaning humans are susceptible to this virus. Bats are the primary carrier of rabies in Alberta, but any mammal can become infected with this virus. Domestic animals being exposed to the rabies virus is a regular occurrence in Alberta, and any people in contact with these animals must be immediately treated with post-exposure vaccination. Vaccination is the ONLY way to prevent rabies infection. Once infection occurs, rabies is fatal. Thus, it is crucial to vaccinate your outdoor cat to protect your family. Discuss your indoor cat’s lifestyle with your veterinarian, as rabies vaccination may still be recommended.

How often does my adult cat need to be vaccinated?

After an initial kitten series is completed, cats receive a booster one year later. Once this first adult booster is completed, vaccination is then recommended every 3 years to keep your cat’s immunity strong. This vaccination schedule may be re-evaluated during a cat’s senior years as other health concerns may come into play.

Are there any risks associated with cat vaccines?

As with any vaccination, there is a rare chance of an allergic reaction. Clinical signs of a vaccine reaction will be discussed at the time of your appointment with our veterinarians, but could include facial swelling, vomiting, lethargy, or increased breathing rate. A true allergic reaction will happen within minutes to hours of vaccination, but more delayed reactions usually of a gastrointestinal nature could appear within a few days of vaccination. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health after vaccination, please contact your veterinarian immediately. They will advise if any supportive care is recommended. If your cat has a reaction, it is important to report it as it may alter their future vaccinations.

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