What is vaccination-
Vaccinations are small injections which greatly reduce the chances of disease infecting your pet. Routine vaccination has greatly reduced the extent of several feline diseases, including some that can prove fatal.
When a cat is vaccinated, it is given a modified, safe version of a pathogen. This allows the cat to develop an immune response- without risking illness. If the cat then encounters the same pathogen, the body recognises it and has a quicker and more effective response to the disease.
There are several key diseases that are essential to vaccinate against.
Feline infectious enteritis (FIE)- This is a severe, and often fatal gut infection and is caused by the feline parvovirus. Vaccination against FIE has been very successful, however those that are unvaccinated are at great risk because the virus is widespread in the environment.
Cat flu- There are two types of cat flu which are vaccinated against, feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV). These are very common, and vaccination protects against prolonged illness. However it is important to note that there are many different strains of cat flu, therefore the vaccination does not totally eradicate the threat.
If your cat is an outdoor cat, your vet may also suggest-
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)- This is a lifelong infection, and unfortunately most cats will die within three years of diagnosis- often from a subsequent disease. This is not an airborn disease, and can only be passed on via direct contact between cats- but due to the severe nature of the disease, vaccination is recommended.
Although vaccination has greatly reduced the outbreak of life-threatening infectious diseases within the cat population- that population has increased. If cats do not continue to be routinely vaccinated, widespread outbreak of disease may occur again.
When to vaccinate-
The first wave of vaccinations should be given to kittens from around eight to nine weeks of age. Timing is important- too early and the antibodies they receive from their mother will interfere with the vaccine.
Unfortunately, the time when the antibodies from mum are depleted varies from kitten to kitten. This is why two vaccines are usually needed- three to four weeks apart. This ensures kittens are not left susceptible to infection.
Regular booster vaccinations are very important in order to ensure the immunity remains at an adequate level. Boosters remind the immune system to react- enabling them to work effectively in the face of infection. Without these boosters they will become susceptible to infection because the immune system will gradually “forget” the threat. Boosters are normally administered annually, and vets will often remind their clients when pets registered with them are due to come in for their booster / annual health check.
If you were unsure about whether or not to vaccinate your pet cat, we hope the information on this page will help you decide. If you have any other queries or concerns about vaccination please do not hesitate to call us on 0141 779 3341 or email Glasgow@cats.org.uk.