Vaccinations are one of the most effective tools at your disposal for safeguarding your cat's health. Like all medical procedures (for animals and humans alike), they carry a small risk. But their risks are outweighed by their benefits, given that they protect your cat from dangerous, potentially deadly diseases -- some of which can't be cured.
Your cat's first line of defense against disease is her immune system. When it's working well, this system fends off invasion by disease-causing organisms such as bacteria and viruses.
Each vaccine that's given to your pet "trains" the cat's immune system to fight off a particular organism. How? By introducing antigens, substances that resemble the disease-causing organism, but don't actually cause disease. These antigens stimulate the immune system into a protective response -- a kind of "rehearsal" that prepares the immune system to respond effectively if your cat ever comes into contact with the real disease-causing organism.
Vaccines go a long way toward protecting your pet from disease, but they can't guarantee 100-percent immunity. In some cases, vaccines don't prevent an animal from catching a disease, but can make the symptoms less severe if it does contract the illness. You can give your cat extra protection by:
- Avoiding exposure to infected cats (by keeping your cat indoors and having any new pets or animal visitors tested for disease before allowing them to come into contact with your cat).
- Keeping your pet away from areas that might be contaminated (especially places where other animals have left bowel movements, a major source of infection).
Continued on page 2: Who, What, and When