All cats should be vaccinated to prevent against harmful and potentially life-threatening diseases. The types of vaccines your cat should be given will vary based on the life style of your cat. If your cat lives in the house and does not come into contact with other cats, only the basic vaccines are necessary. If your cat spends time outside and around other cats, the proper precautions should be taken with the necessary vaccinations.
Rabies is a disease nearly everyone has heard of. It is contracted when an animal is bitten by another animal that has been infected. The disease is carried in the saliva. Rabies vaccinations are required in many states for cats. Even if you have an indoor cat, they should be vaccinated in case they get out, or by chance an animal were to get into your house. In nearly all cases, an animal will need to be put down if it has been infected with rabies.
The more common name for this virus is “distemper”. It is a highly contagious disease which is why vaccination is recommended. Symptoms include fever, seizures, loss of appetite, and possibly death. Kittens are born with a natural immunity for the first few weeks of their lives. Vaccinations should start at around 8 weeks old and there are series of about 3-4 follow-ups about 2 weeks apart. Your cat should also receive a vaccination every 1-3 years going forward.
Caused by the herpes virus, Rhinotracheitis is an upper respiratory infection that is highly contagious. The infection could prove to be fatal in young kittens, so the vaccination is highly recommended. The vaccine lasts for about 3 years, so follow up vaccinations are necessary.
Calicivirus is a virus that causes an upper respiratory infection. It is very contagious through contact with infected cats. Symptoms include fever, gum disease, mouth ulcers, sneezing, among others. More advanced forms of the virus are more severe and can cause fatality. Cats do not need to exhibit symptoms in order to transmit the disease to other cats. The contagious nature of this disease makes it important for your cat to receive a vaccination.
Feline Leukemia Virus
This is another virus that is spread through direct contact with an infected cat. For this reason the vaccine is highly recommended for outdoor cats, or cats that are frequently in contact with other cats. Indoor, solitary cats should still be vaccinated to prevent against the potentially fatal virus, but are not at as high a risk to contract it. Like all vaccines, there are some potential side effects. A small percentage of cats developed cancerous sarcomas where they were injected with the vaccine. Have a conversation with your vet if you have any questions about the vaccine.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis
This is a disease that has no cure and is fatal in most instances. The good news is that for households with only 1 or 2 cats only 1 in 5000 cats are affected. The vaccine for this disease has not proven to be very effective to this point, so most cats will not require this vaccination.
This disease is much more prevalent in cats that live in a multiple cat environment. The most obvious symptom is usually conjunctivitis, and the disease is carried in the eye discharge of infected cats. Adverse reactions to the chlamydiosis vaccine occur at a higher rate than most vaccines, so if you have an indoor cat it is usually not recommended. Speak with your vet if you have any questions about this vaccine.
FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV)
FIV is also known as "FELINE AIDS VIRUS." It is a relative to the HIV virus that causes AIDS in people. This virus does its damage by depressing the eat's own immune system, making it much more susceptible to other common cat infectious diseases. There is an effective vaccine available for this disease. We also do have an accurate blood test that will tell whether or not the cat is a carrier of the disease. For maximum accuracy, the cat should be 6 months of age before being tested. This particular test detects blood "antibodies" to the disease. It takes time for these antibodies to develop in the blood yielding the positive test. Therefore, a recent exposure of 30-90 days or less may not have provided sufficient time for antibodies to develop that would be detected by the test.