Feline Vaccinations: What Do They Mean & Protect Cats Against?
For some, vaccinations and our cats’ health may seem complicated. Others may be bored by it.
As pet parents, I believe it’s our responsibility to understand what’s going into our cats’ bodies, the risks they face, and the conditions vaccinations protect them from. Learning about these things may not change your world, but hopefully it’ll give you a new appreciation for staying current with your cats’ vaccinations – and in some way, change your cat’s world for the better.
While there are a number of vaccinations your cat can receive, feline vaccinations are divided into two basic groups: core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Speak with your veterinarian to learn which vaccines your cat may need. Any medical records you may have from a previous vet or from your shelter can come in handy during that conversation.
During the vaccination process, a modified bacteria, virus, or parasite is administered to the cat. The cat’s body then triggers an immune response to protect the cat against a specific disease.
Here’s a look at some of the vaccines your cat may need:
These are vaccinations that are recommended for all cats. We’ll cover these in detail, since these are the ones we should all be familiar with.
– FVRCP: This is the main vaccine that your cat will receive. Sometimes called “distemper,”* this vaccine actually includes multiple vaccines in one dose that protects against a number of diseases. The vaccines and the diseases they protect against include:
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis: FVR is the technical name for a respiratory infection that can be caused by the herpes virus in felines. This infection is highly contagious between cats. Most cats are exposed to the herpes virus at some point during their lives, and many cats become infected. That said, regularly vaccinating a cat can help keep the virus at bay. If the virus is activated, the infection usually leads to sneezing, “pink eye,” runny eyes, and nasal discharge. The virus can also cause eye problems and skin diseases.
- Calicivirus: This is a common cause of upper respiratory and oral disease in cats. The virus’ signs (sneezing, ocular and nasal discharge) tend to be milder than those caused by the herpes virus; however, the calicivirus can also cause ulcers on the tongue. Direct and indirect transmission is possible, and cats of all ages are susceptible.
- Panleukopenia: This is the illness that can be caused by the feline panleukopenia virus. It’s sometimes also referred to as distemper. This virus often leads to lethargy, poor appetite, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. In young cats, the disease is often fatal. If a cat is infected with panleukopenia during pregnancy, her kittens may be born with cerebellar hypoplasia. The virus is mainly spread through feces, however, the virus is very stable and can be spread easily once other things are contaminated.
– Rabies: This vaccine protects against one thing: Rabies. This vaccination is required by law.
*While the term distemper is often used in place of the acronym FVRCP, some sources claim that the use is incorrect.
These vaccinations may or may not be necessary. Their administration will depend on the individual cat’s lifestyle and needs. Chatting with your vet will help you figure out which your cat may or may not need.
Some of these vaccines include:
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
- Ringworm (a skin fungus)
- Chlamydophila (a respiratory pathogen, formerly called Chlamydia)
- Bordetella (another respiratory pathogen)
It’s important to remember that not all vaccines are 100% effective. Some pets may not develop an adequate immunity and may become ill. That said, the benefits of vaccinating your cat can far outweigh the risks.