Have You Established Your Kitten Vaccination Schedule?

What vaccinations are available, and does your kitten need them? We explain them and how they can prevent disease and death in cats.

Have you established your kitten vaccination schedule?

When I first adopted my new kitten, my first thought was about vaccinations and vet visits. Did he have his shots? Did he need them? Was he already neutered? After verifying these facts and discussing future medical care with the shelter and the veterinarian, we figured out what was left to be done.

Do you know which vaccinations your kitten needs?

Your kitten will go through development stages and may be more susceptible to disease at different times. This also depends on what other animals might be around your kitten.

I knew the average ages that kittens need vaccinations, but I was curious if most cat owners knew what the vaccinations were. I imagine figuring out this information must be daunting for our readers. Different searches can result in over 1 million websites, so how are you supposed to know which one is which? You’re in luck, because we’ve done all the tedious work for you.

Your cat’s immune system has to fight off infections and disease. If your cat contracts something the system can’t eradicate or fight off, you could be facing long-term care or euthanization. Vaccinations can help prevent this and other diseases from affecting your cat and transmitting it to others.  Below are the four most common viruses and vaccinations.

Viruses and Vaccination Recommendations

Feline Panleukopenia Virus
AKA: FPV, distemper, ataxia
Affects: All cats but primarily found in kittens
Outbreaks: Primarily in the summer (U.S.) but can happen at any time
Contagious: High
Transmission: Infected cats and their secretions or waste, fleas, contaminated objects
Symptoms: Range from none to fever, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, inability to swallow
Prevention: Vaccination at 8 weeks (first), 12 weeks (second), 16 weeks (third if at high risk), 1 year and every 3 years thereafter. Earlier vaccination schedule can vary by two weeks depending on veterinarian recommendation.

Feline Calicivirus/Herpesvirus
Affects: All cats
Outbreaks: Any time
Contagious: High
Transmission: Saliva, eye and nose discharge and feces of an infected cat.  Virus is common in kittens, multi-cat households and shelters.
Symptoms: Joint or muscle pain or tenderness, fever, loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, sores on the tongue, lips or nose, ulcers on or around the paws, eye and nose discharge and sneezing.  Onset of symptoms is sudden.
Prevention: Vaccination won’t necessarily prevent the virus but can help reduce development of disease.  The vaccination is usually given with FPV at 8 weeks (first), 12 weeks (second), 16 weeks (third if at high risk), 1 year and every 3 years thereafter. Earlier vaccination schedule can vary by two weeks depending on veterinarian recommendation.

Rabies Virus
AKA: None
Affects: Any mammal can be affected but most commonly cats, cattle and dogs. This virus can be contracted by humans.
Outbreaks: Unusual but possible in countries with inadequate medical treatment or resources
Contagious: Mild to low
Transmission: Virus is usually transmitted through bites or contact with fluids or excretions from infected animals. Human transmission is extremely rare and only a small amount of cases (less than a dozen) were documented involving transplants.
Prevention: Vaccination at 12 weeks (first), 1 year (second) and every 3 years thereafter. U.S. law requires this vaccination in most areas whereas places like the United Kingdom do not offer it due to absence of the virus.

Feline Leukemia Virus
Affects: All cats, kittens under 4 months of age are the most susceptible
Outbreaks: Unusual
Contagious: Moderate, higher with prolonged exposure to infected cats
Transmission: Saliva and nasal secretions, bites, feces and mother to kitten transmission through nursing
Symptoms: Symptoms may be delayed but include loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, anemia, pale or swollen gums, infections, persistent diarrhea, seizures or other neurological disorders, eye conditions or reproductive failure (abortion of kittens).
Prevention: Vaccination at 12 weeks (first), 16 weeks (second), 1 year and annual thereafter or as recommended by your veterinarian.

Other vaccines exist but may not be needed depending on your cat’s exposure to outside elements, other animals or your location.  Some vaccinations should be done annually or every three years, so check with your vet for a recommendation and keep up with the schedule.  Risk-free vaccines don’t exist and there is always a risk of reactions that range from mild to severe.  The risks are much smaller than the risk of disease, and these vaccinations can prove to be invaluable for the longevity of your cat’s life.

Join me next week as I explain what to expect after getting your cat’s vaccinations and the possible side effects.

Photo: mathias-erhart/Flickr

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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