The Importance of Feline Vaccines


Vaccinations help to prevent many illnesses that effect cats. Vaccinating your cat has been considered the easiest way to help your cat live a long and healthy life. There are different types and combinations of vaccines that help protect your cat from different diseases. Although vaccinating your cat has the potential to protect him/her against life threatening diseases, as with many medical procedures, this does not come without some possible risks. Vaccination is a procedure that has risks and benefits that must be weighed out for each patient specifically according to the health and lifestyle of your cat. Your veterinarian will help you to determine what is best for your cat specifically. The following are some commonly asked questions about vaccines.

What are vaccines?

“Vaccines help prepare the body’s immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease causing organism to the immune system, but don’t actually cause the disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If the cat is ever exposed to the real disease, the immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity.” – ASPCA 2010

How important are vaccines to my cat?

Vaccines play an important role in the overall health of your cat. Most veterinarians will advise that healthy cats should receive core vaccinations. That being said, your veterinarian will advise you of a proper vaccine protocol that is right for your cat specifically. Factors that should be looked at when making this decision are age, health, medical history, environment and lifestyle.


What are Core vaccines?

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, vaccines are divided into two categories; core and non-core. Core vaccines are considered to be important for all cats and vital part of a long and healthy life. Core vaccines protect against panleukopenia (feline distemper), Upper Respiratory Infective Viruses, and Rabies. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the cat’s lifestyle. This group of vaccinations includes vaccines such as Feline Leukemia Virus, Bordetella, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, as well as Chylamydophila. Certain vaccinations are to be given yearly to adult cats, while others are given every 3 years. You veterinarian can determine which vaccines are best for your cat and when they should be given.



Which Vaccines are required by law?

In the province of Ontario, rabies vaccinations are mandatory for all domestic pets and are required to be given every year. Proof of rabies vaccination is mandatory.


When should my Kitten be vaccinated?

When kittens are born, they receive some of the mother cats’ antibodies in the milk they receive from the mother, if the mother has a healthy immune system. These antibodies protect against infectious diseases until they are able to develop an immune system of their own. When kitten are around 6-8 weeks of age, if they are healthy enough, your veterinarian will begin to administer a series of vaccines at 3 – 4 week intervals until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age.


What are the Risks associated with Vaccines?

Vaccinations are supposed to mildly stimulate the immune system in order to protect against specific diseases. The stimulation the vaccine creates can cause mild symptoms such as soreness at the injection site, fever, and allergic reactions. There are however less common side effects that can occur such as injection site tumors and some immune diseases associated with vaccinations. With that being said, there is a risk when giving your cat vaccines. However, the risk of infectious disease usually outweighs the risk of less common vaccine reactions. It is important to discuss your cat’s medical history with your veterinarian, to decide if vaccines are in your cat’s best interest.


If a vaccine reaction occurs how do I know?

Most cats show no ill effect from vaccines. However keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

–          Fever

–          Lethargy

–          Loss of appetite

–          Vomiting

–          Diarrhea

–          Limping/Lameness

–          Swelling or redness at the injection site

If you suspect your cat is having a vaccine reaction, contact your veterinarian immediately.


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