Understanding Cat Vaccinations

Once kittens reach six to eight weeks old, the disease immunity they receive from their mothers wears off, and they need to begin their rounds of cat vaccinations. These vaccinations prevent them from acquiring diseases such as rabies, FIV and leukemia, for which there is no known cure.

FVRCP Kitten Vaccinations

Around six to eight weeks of age, kittens receive their first round of FVRCP vaccinations. This stands for Feline Viral Rhinotrachetis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia.

Feline Viral Rhinotrachetis is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease, which causes sneezing, coughing, eye and nasal discharge, loss of appetite and fever. If contracted by kittens or senior cats, hospitalization is required.

Feline Calicivirus is another high contagious upper respiratory infection that is contracted from contact with infected cats. The symptoms are similiar to FVR.

Feline Panleukopenia is feline distemper, which is highly contagious and can result in death. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, tremors and loss of coordination.

Kittens need an FVRCP booster every three to four weeks between the ages of six and 16 weeks. After that, FVRCP shots are recommended annually; however, many veterinarians feel that our pets are over-vaccinated and don't need yearly shots. If you are concerned about over-vaccinating your cat, ask your veterinarian for a titer, which measures the levels of vaccines in your cat's blood. If levels are high, no re-vaccination is required.

Rabies Vaccination

Rabies is a devastating disease contracted from the saliva of an infected animal. Because many cats have outdoor access, they have an increased risk of rabies exposure.

There is no cure for rabies, and it always ends in death, but it is completely preventable with a vaccine, which is required by law in most states. Your cat can receive his first rabies vaccination at 16 weeks and then annually for the first one to three years, depending on your veterinarian. After your cat is two or three, he can receive the vaccine every three years.

Additional Vaccinations

Vaccines are also available for feline leukemia and feline AIDS, but depending on your veterinarian, these may not be recommended for your cat.

Feline leukemia is a highly contagious and incurable disease passed through urine, milk, tears and saliva. Most cats contract the disease from their mothers or fighting with infected cats. Cats with feline leukemia can be symptom-free for years but still contagious to other cats. Every cat should be tested for feline leukemia, but if your cat isn't allowed outdoors and isn't exposed to cats with feline leukemia, the vaccination is often not recommended.

Feline AIDS, or FIV, is the feline version of human AIDS, though it cannot be passed to humans. It is usually passed through bite wounds, but your cat can live a long, healthy life with FIV if indoors, isolated from other cats. Veterinarians often don't recommend the vaccination because once vaccinated, your cat will always test positive for the disease. Thus, it will be impossible to detect if your cat does contract it.

Vaccinations are an important component of responsible cat ownership. Discuss which vaccinations your veterinarian recommends and keep them up-to-date to prevent your cat from contracting a devastating and fatal disease.