Vaccines are vital to the prevention of disease in our feline companions. Whether your cat is the grand ruler of your home or of the neighborhood, vaccinating your cat is a necessity. Vaccinations work by exposing your cat’s immune system to a safe version of the illness it is designed to prevent, so that their immune system may build a defense against that specific pathogen. Vaccines work to help your cat's body recognize when it is exposed to a pathogen so it can fight it off or at a minimum significantly decrease the negative outcomes associated.
There are two core vaccinations recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).
The rabies vaccine is a legal requirement in El Paso County. If contracted from an infected animal, rabies is fatal. A rabies vaccine can be considered valid for either one or three years, depending on age and if your cat has received the vaccine previously.
The FVRCP or Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis Calicivirus Panleukopenia vaccine, is commonly known as the feline distemper vaccine. This vaccine is vital to protecting your cat from multiple preventable diseases. A FVRCP vaccine can be considered valid for either one or three years, depending on age and if your cat has received the vaccine previously.
These two vaccinations protect your cat against the most serious diseases they may contract, which is why they are a vital part of your cat's preventative care.
There is an additional vaccination that may be recommended for your cat, depending on their lifestyle.
FeLV, or Feline Leukemia Virus, is a disease specific to cats and is passed through bodily fluids. Unfortunately, FeLV has no known cure, so it is best to protect your cat if they are at higher risk of contracting it. FeLV requires an initial vaccination and one booster, and requires yearly boosters thereafter.
When Are Vaccines Due?
Kittens and adult cats have different vaccination needs. Kittens need multiple sets of vaccines because their immune system is still developing as they grow. Adult cats require boosters every one or three years, depending on the type of vaccine and their medical history.
- 8 Weeks Old: At your first kitten visit your kitten should receive their first of three FVRCP vaccines. We also recommend you bring in a stool sample at this time to be sent out to the lab to test for any potential parasites and bacteria.
- 12 Weeks Old: During their second visit, your kitten will receive their next FVRCP vaccine. It is at this age that our veterinarian will discuss if a feline leukemia vaccination will be appropriate for your kitten; a feline leukemia vaccine will need to be boosted at the next visit.
- 16 Weeks Old: The final kitten visit can be considered it's annual wellness exam. It is at this appointment your kitten receives its final FVRCP and feline leukemia boosters, if applicable, as well as their rabies vaccination. If your kitten has received its recommended vaccines up to this point, all vaccines given at this appointment will be considered valid for one calendar year.
Adult cats have different requirements for booster shots. At one calendar year from their last vaccinations your cat should receive a booster vaccine for both rabies and FVRCP. Since your cat has previously had these vaccinations the boosters they receive after one year are valid for three years. If your cat received a FeLV vaccine during kittenhood, it will also need to be boosted every calendar year.
Which Vaccinations Should My Cat Receive?
We’re glad you asked! During your cat’s annual examination, you and your veterinarian can discuss each vaccine to determine which will be the most beneficial for your cat. Our veterinarians consider the benefits vs. the risks for each vaccination before making recommendations. It is important to note that for the majority of cats the benefits of vaccinating far outweigh the potential risks.