Although vaccines haven't yet been created to address every possible threat to your cat's health, the list of diseases for which vaccines are available is a long one. It includes:
- Respiratory infections, including calicivirus, herpesvirus (cause of feline viral rhinotracheitis), and bordetellosis
- FeLV (feline leukemia virus)
- FIP (feline infectious peritonitis)
- Feline panleukopenia
- Chlamydiosis (a bacterial infection)
- Giardiasis (a parasitic infection linked with gastrointestinal-tract disease)
- Ringworm (a skin disease caused by a fungus)
See the article "Common Kitty Health Problems" for more information on these diseases.
Just about every cat can benefit from being immunized against some illnesses, especially the ones that most commonly afflict felines. Not every cat needs to be vaccinated against every disease, however. You and your vet can decide which vaccines your cat needs, taking into consideration such factors as these:
- Risk of exposure. Is your pet a strictly indoor cat, or does she venture outside? Is she the only animal in the household, or is she in contact with other pets?
- Your cat's age and health status. Kittens, for example, need extra protection from some diseases.
- Your pet's reaction to previous vaccines. Has your cat ever experienced a reaction, mild or severe, after being vaccinated?
- The effects of the disease. Some feline illnesses are mild and pose little long-term risk, especially to adult cats; others are life-threatening or debilitating.
- The threat the disease presents to humans. Some diseases, such as rabies, pose a serious threat to the health of humans and to other animals, as well as to the animal who contracts it. For this reason, rabies vaccinations are generally required by local law.
- The effectiveness of the vaccine. What's the track record of this particular vaccine for preventing the disease, or reducing its severity if contracted?
Your cat will receive the majority of her vaccines during kittenhood, then get regular booster shots as an adult.
Kittens generally get two rounds of vaccines against the major diseases (upper respiratory diseases, FeLV, and panleukopenia); one at 6 to 8 weeks of age and another at 12 weeks. They also receive a rabies vaccine at their 12-week checkup. A third FeLV vaccine is administered between 2 and 4 months of age.
All adult cats need booster shots for different diseases at different intervals. Some vaccines must be given annually. Others confer protection for much longer periods, and may be given once every three years. Vaccines available on a three-year booster cycle include those for panleukopenia, herpesvirus, and calicivirus, and certain feline rabies vaccines (only those that are approved for triennial use).
If you adopt a stray adult, or any fully grown cat whose health history is unknown, chances are your vet will give her the regular roster of adult booster shots.
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