Filed in Cats, Health
The vast majority of cat diseases are easily prevented by vaccination. Vaccination is given in a single dose either by droplets placed in the cat's nose or injection.
How the Vaccination Works
Vaccination is designed to help prevent the disease, not cure it. Just like human vaccines, cat vaccines contain altered viruses or bacteria that won't cause the disease. The vaccine is given to the cat so that its immune system can develop antibodies that attack the virus or bacteria that causes a disease. This way, if your cat is later exposed to a disease causing virus or bacteria these antibodies quickly destroy the agent that causes the disease.
Over time the protection a vaccine provides gradually diminishes. Regular boosters are needed to maintain your cat's immunities.
Do Kittens Need All Those Shots?
While nursing, kittens receive maternal antibodies from its mother's milk. These antibodies help protect it from disease for the first few months of life. Though helpful, these antibodies can decrease, or eliminate, the effectiveness of vaccines.
During the first few months of the kitten's life maternal antibodies gradually decrease. By giving the kitten a series of vaccine doses between six and 16 weeks of age, the vaccines have a better chance of overcoming maternal antibodies and help the kitten develop its own antibodies.
How Often Do I Vaccinate my Kitten?
As a general rule, kittens should be vaccinated every three to four weeks (starting at six weeks of age) until they are four months old and yearly thereafter. The minimum ages for various vaccines are:
- Six Weeks: Viral rhinotracheitis, Calcivirus, Chlamydia pneumonitis, and Panleukopenia. These are normally given together and referred to as 4 in 1.
- Nine Weeks: Feline Leukemia
- 16 Weeks: Feline Infectious Peritonitis and Rabies.
Does My Kitten Really Need All of These Shots?
Most infectious diseases (except panleukopenia and respiratory disease) have a relatively low occurrence in most unvaccinated cats. For example: rabies, below 1%; feline infectious peritonitis, 1%; and feline leukemia, around 3%. However, these diseases are the ones most likely to kill your cat if contracted.
Does this mean that you should not vaccinate for these less common but dangerous diseases? There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to vaccinate your cat for a particular disease.
These factors include:
Probability of exposure. Most single urban (indoor) cats have very little exposure to these diseases while the chance of exposure is higher in multiple cat households, suburban and rural environments.
Availability of vaccines. All the vaccines listed are readily available from your veterinarian or animal clinic.
Cost of vaccination. Pet Food Express, and many animal shelters, offer low-cost vaccine clinics which can significantly reduce the cost of vaccinating your cat. Click the Our Services tab at the top of the page and connect with our Store Locator page for more information.
In short, with the availability and cost effectiveness of vaccines it seems better to vaccinate your cat than run the risk of them developing one of these life threatening diseases.