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Kitten vaccinations

Your new kitten may have already received a vaccination. If your kitten is aged 7 to 16 weeks, you should know that they have not necessarily completed their vaccination program so care must be taken when socialising your kitten. Your veterinarian can advise you on how to manage this process. For your kitten’s best protection it is essential to maintain an optimum vaccination regimen throughout their life.

For each cat your veterinary surgeon will adapt the vaccination program according to your pet’s lifestyle and local disease conditions. Some vaccines may be combined in the same syringe, others must be administered in separate sites but on the same day. As in children, most of the primary vaccinations are carried out using a series of injections.

Why should I vaccinate my cat?

The principle of vaccination is to stimulate the body’s immune system. The immune system involves a number of cells, proteins and chemicals of which the best known components are antibodies.

Kittens are protected against many infectious diseases by the antibodies present in their mother’s milk (colostrum) which they receive in the first few hours of life. This protection from maternal antibodies lasts anything up to 3 months. For this reason vaccination schedules start around the age of 6 to 8 weeks of age.

Why is it necessary to have repeat vaccinations?

Many people believe that if they have their cat vaccinated when they are kittens, the immunity they receive will protect them for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately this is not the case. To maintain protection, regular booster vaccinations are required.

Re-vaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is offered for an additional period. Without these regular vaccinations, your cat’s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal diseases. Booster vaccinations will be recommended by your veterinarian and will provide the best possible protection for the life of your pet.

After-vaccination care

After vaccination your pet may be lethargic and off its food for a day or so, or have some tenderness at the site of injection. Access to food and water and a comfortable area to rest are usually all that is required for a quick recovery. However, if the response seems more severe you should contact your veterinarian for advice.

When should your kitten have a veterinary check?

Your kitten’s first booster may be due a year after the initial course, at approximately 15 months of age (depending on which vaccination programme your veterinarian is using). However, a veterinary check at 7 to 10 months is advisable. Small adjustments to the daily routine at this time, may help to prevent problems (such as inappropriate weight gain, dental disease etc) becoming established later in life.

Vaccination certificate

Your veterinarian will complete a certificate to record the vaccinations. This ‘vaccination book’ contains the details of each vaccine and the date given. It is signed by the veterinarian as a permanent record and is required as proof of your pet’s vaccination history when going to catteries or shows.

You can also download the FREE FRONTLINE PET CHECK app to create a complete profile of your pet, including its vaccination schedule.

Infectious diseases in the cat

What can we vaccinate against?

Cat Flu, Feline Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia are the three main infectious diseases in the cat, along with Chlamydia, a common cause of conjunctivitis. These diseases may be prevented by vaccination. A more recently discovered viral disease, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus now has a commercially available vaccine in Australia whilst there is still no satisfactory vaccine available against another viral disease, Feline Infectious Peritonitis which can cause fatal disease in the cat.

Cat Flu (Feline Respiratory Disease)

Whilst not as life threatening as the other diseases that can affect your cat, this condition can nevertheless cause distress to both the pet and its owner. Unless successfully treated, the effects such as chronic nasal discharge and inflammed eyes may be prolonged.
Two major forms of the disease exist, Calici Virus and Herpes Virus. The signs vary, depending on which virus is involved. Common signs of the disease are coughing and sneezing, a high temperature, a loss of appetite, discharge from the eyes and nose, and in the case of the calici form, ulcers on the tongue.

Your cat may remain as a carrier (even after it recovers) and act as a source of infection to other cats without showing signs itself. This obviously causes a particular problem in catteries and so it is essential that your cat is vaccinated before entering such an establishment.

Feline Enteritis (also known as Feline Panleucopenia)

This is one of the most dangerous infectious diseases of cats and kittens. It is most common in kittens and young cats – the mortality rate is very high. Death may be so sudden that there is no time for the signs to develop. A most distressing disease, the signs of vomiting, severe abdominal pain and rapid dehydration are so severe that owners often suspect that their pet has been poisoned.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

This disease is mainly transmitted by direct contact with an infected cat, particularly via the saliva when grooming. The virus is also present in blood, urine and other body fluids of infected cats. There is a higher risk of infection when several cats live under the same roof. The first stage of the disease often goes unnoticed because the signs exhibited by an infected cat are very diverse and this makes diagnosis difficult. Young cats are most susceptible but FeLV can strike cats of any age, breed or sex.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

FIV is an infectious disease caused by a virus in the same family as the FeLV virus. FIV attacks the cells of the immune system, which compromises the cat’s ability to fight off infections.

Cats show a range of signs which may vary from cat to cat. Some of which may include weight loss, poor coat condition, anaemia, gastroenteritis, dental health problems, diarrhoea, chronic or recurring infections of the skin, eyes, urinary tract, and respiratory tract and cancer.

The virus is present in large quantities in the cat’s saliva, and the most common mode of transmission is via bite wounds. Free roaming, entire male cats are at greater risk as they are more likely to become involved in territorial fighting.