Keeping your cat up to date with vaccinations is very important in preventing some life-threatening diseases. It is also a condition of boarding for most reputable catteries and is required if your want to travel abroad with your pet. So make a note on your calendar each year to keep your cat as healthy as possible!
Vaccines can be divided into two different types: core and non-core. Core vaccines are recommended for all cats, and non-core vaccines are given depending on the risk to an individual cat. Discuss with your vet which vaccines are advised for your cat.
Core vaccinations are available for the following diseases:
- Feline Panleukopenia Virus - also called Feline Infectious Enteritis (Also known as FIE or Feline Parvovirus). This is a highly contagious and often fatal virus, particularly for young kittens, who can also be infected whilst in the mother’s womb. It can cause a variety of signs, most commonly vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite and, less commonly, nervous signs associated with brain damage.
- Feline Calici Virus (FCV) is a virus causing cat flu, with sneezing, nasal discharge and oral ulceration. Affected cats may be reluctant to eat and have a temperature. In young kittens this can be even more serious and spread to affect the joints and lungs.
- Feline Herpes Virus (FHV-1), this virus also causes signs of flu, as well as ulcers on the eye, and chronic infection can result in nasal diseases.
Non-core vaccinations include:
- Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). This virus is spread from cat to cat via close contact and causes a variety of problems including cancers and blood abnormalities that are usually fatal. Blood tests to ensure the cat does not already have the infection may be recommended before vaccination.
- Feline Chlamydiosis - caused by a bacterium called Chlamydophila felis. This bug causes conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissues around the eye).
- Bordetella infection - caused by a bacterium called Bordetella bronchiseptica. This infection causes ‘kennel cough’ in dogs and can also cause respiratory problems in cats.
- Rabies Virus - vaccination against the Rabies virus is required as part of the 'Pet Travel Scheme' if you want to take your cat abroad.
In other countries vaccination against Feline Infectious Peritonitis, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Ringworm and Giardia spp. are available, but these are not licensed in the UK.
It is important to note that vaccination may not completely prevent infection in some cases of overwhelming exposure, but the infection will be milder and the cat less likely to spread infection to other cats.
Kitten vaccinations include two injections starting around nine weeks of age, with a second vaccine 3-4 weeks later to stimulate optimum immune response. Thereafter booster injections at regular intervals (according to the manufacturer’s directions) are strongly recommended to ensure continuing immunity. If your cat has not had a vaccine for more than a year discuss this with your vet, as starting a new course (2 injections 3-4 weeks apart) may be required.
If your cat needs to stay in a cattery, or you are considering taking your cat abroad, ensure you are aware of vaccine requirements in advance.
For more in-depth information about these diseases and how they affect cats visit www.fabcats.org/owners/vaccination/info.html or www.fabcats.org/cat_group/index.html