What You Need to Know About Vaccinations for Your Cat

April 29th 2019

By Dr. Dirk Dekens
Vaccinations have become a controversial subject these days for humans and sometimes we vets also get questions about the necessity of immunizations.
It is important to keep our pets safe from preventable diseases, so I’ve written this blog to clear up some of the questions out there about feline vaccinations.

Does my indoor cat need to be vaccinated?

 Vaccinations for our feline friends can be a lifesaver, but some people may feel their cat is safe if they remain indoors.
However, just like us, your cat requires vaccinations that can keep it free from common and potentially deadly diseases.
Indoor cats, as a minimum, require vaccinations against distemper (Panleukopenia), herpes and calici virus. Those vaccines are usually administered together in a combo shot.
In a multiple cat household or in cat foster homes an additional vaccination against leukemia may be worth a discussion with you vet.

What vaccinations does an outdoor cat require?

 Outdoor cats require more vaccinations. A number of diseases can be spread through contact with other cats when roaming around outside.

CVMA core vaccinations for cats:

Feline Panleukopenia (Cat flu/cat distemper)Panleukopenia is a potentially fatal viral disease that causes vomiting, diarrhea, severe dehydration, fever, and sudden death. Kittens born to infected cats may suffer permanent brain damage. Vaccines against panleukopenia provide excellent protection.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) and Calicivirus
These organisms infect the airways of cats, cause runny eyes and nose, sneezing, mouth ulcers, and sometimes a reduced appetite. Vaccines against these “cold” viruses may help increase resistance to infection and reduce severity of disease.

All mammals including humans are at risk of contracting rabies, which is almost invariably fatal. Rabid pets may display a "dumb" form that is characterized by listlessness, weakness and paralysis, or the "furious" form of rabies characterized by abnormal aggression. In some parts of Canada, where risk is high, vaccination of pets is mandatory.

Non-Core Vaccinations:

Feline Leukemia Virus 
This virus causes a multitude of disorders from tumours, (including leukemia), to bone marrow suppression, to silent infection, although some infected cats may not show clinical signs for several years. All kittens under one year of age should be vaccinated against feline leukemia virus (FeLV) because they are at greatest risk for infection. Adult cats that go outside or that live with any FeLV-infected cat should be vaccinated.
To read more about feline leukemia read our blog here.

What vaccinations do boarding facilities require?

If you need to board your cat, many facilities require the panleukopenia, rabies and feline leukemia vaccinations.
Check with your local boarding facility to find out their specific requirements.
You will need written proof or vaccination certificates of your cat’s vaccinations.

How can I minimize vaccinations for my cat?

Titer tests reveal what immunities your cat has developed, allowing you to make an informed decision about what vaccinations they currently require, in consultation with your veterinarian. To read more about titer tests, read our blog here.
Please note that boarding facilities may not accept titer tests as proof of immunity and will require up to date vaccinations for your cat.

Vaccination schedule for kittens in Canada:

Vets use a variety of vaccination protocols for kittens. Most will vaccinate for distemper, herpes and calici twice about four weeks apart, but some will vaccinate at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age.
If the kitten is going be allowed outdoors, then two immunizations for leukemia, four weeks apart and one rabies vaccination between 12 and 16 weeks of age might be added to this protocol.

Vaccination schedule for adult cats in Canada:

For adult cats, their vaccination schedule will depend on if they are allowed outdoors. Most vets will give a booster for the indoor cat vaccines a year later and then every three years. The same applies for the leukemia and rabies vaccines for outdoor cats.
The higher the incidence is for certain infectious diseases in cats in your region, the more likely it is your vet will recommend to vaccinate against those diseases.
If you have questions about your cat’s vaccinations and live in the Calgary area, please call our clinic at (403) 615-8016 to make an appointment with one of our veterinarians.

You may also want to read our blog about the vaccination schedules for dogs

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