Are cat vaccinations necessary?
Cat vaccinations play a vital role in keeping pets happy and healthy and every cat should be appropriately immunised.
While cat and kitten vaccinations are not an emergency procedure, they do prevent several infectious diseases that can lead to a visit to a pet emergency clinic, such as cat flu, feline infectious enteritis, feline chlamydophilosis and feline leukaemia virus.
Over the past 50 years, vaccines have not only saved the lives of thousands of cats, they have also helped foster early detection of other diseases through promoting regular clinical examinations.
When are kitten vaccinations due?
In the UK, most kittens have their first vaccination at nine weeks old and the second at 12 weeks. An initial vaccination course is made up of two separate injections three to four weeks apart. Kittens must be over 12 weeks old at the time of the second vaccination. After that cats should be taken for a vaccination appointment every year, although not all vaccines will be given at every appointment as some jabs provide protection for longer than others.
Adults cats who have never received vaccinations, or haven’t had a booster in at least 15 months, may need to restart their vaccinations with a primary course.
When can my kitten go out after vaccinations?
Strictly speaking, a kitten is not fully protected by the vaccinations until around 10 days after their second set of jabs. Therefore, it’s important that you are careful about where you allow your kitten to go until then. If your kitten is displaying worrying symptoms such as weakness or vomiting, contact your nearest emergency Vets. It is also worth being sure that your kitten is familiar with their local surroundings before they go off adventuring. There is a balance to be reached between being safe and allowing your kitten to socialise. Ask your daytime vet for advice on this.
What am I having my cat vaccinated for?
The vaccinations your cat receives will vary but for the most part cover a combination of serious and common diseases:
- Feline infectious enteritis (FIE, feline panleukopenia, feline parvovirus)
- Feline herpesvirus (FHV-1) and feline calicivirus (FCV) – cat flu
- Feline chlamydophilosis (Chlamydophila felis, feline chlamydophila infection)
- Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
These diseases are now far less common than they once were but this is largely due to the widespread vaccination regime in operation. In countries where cats aren’t vaccinated routinely, these diseases remain common and are often fatal. There are few things worse than going through the trauma and expense of treating and then losing a pet to a disease they would have easily avoided through a simple vaccination.
How much are cat vaccinations?
Cat and kitten vaccination prices vary from practice to practice and from area to area but, at the time of writing, a comprehensive initial course cost between £20 and £75. In many private veterinary practices, this fee will include two examinations with a veterinary surgeon, a vaccine certificate, and advice on how to care for your kitten’s health. Annual booster prices ranged from £15 to £60. Speak to your vet about whether you can spread the cost of preventative veterinary treatment. Vaccinations and procedures such as spaying and neutering are not usually covered by pet insurance policies but some organisations may be able to help with the costs.
Are there other considerations for cat and kitten vaccinations?
Vets are often asked whether cat and kitten vaccinations are absolutely necessary and whether they’re just a way for vets to make money.
It’s ultimately for, you, the cat owner, to decide whether to immunise your pet, but before making that decision we’d urge you to talk to your daytime vet and give them an opportunity to put your mind at rest.
- Viruses change (think flu) over time and by regularly vaccinating your pet they will be covered for the new emerging strains that may not have been around a few years ago
- Vaccines are rigorously tested and checked to minimise the risk of them doing ‘harm’ to your pet and so are some of the safest medicines routinely used
- Before vaccination, all of the diseases above were commonly found and it is only vaccination programmes that have helped keep them under control
- In areas with low vaccination rates many of these diseases are still common — this demonstrates that these diseases are still a potential risk
- It’s heart-breaking to see an animal die of a preventable disease
Should my cat be vaccinated against everything?
The decision as to whether you vaccinate your cat or kitten against every potential disease depends on your circumstances and the risks to your cat. Some of the bugs there are vaccinations for can be carried in and out of the house on clothing or just through the environment. In general, houses with one indoor cat are at low risk from feline leukaemia and this injection is often omitted.
What are the main cat vaccination side effects?
The vast majority of cats and kittens will be fine following vaccinations. However, while modern-day vaccines are incredibly safe and reliable, like any vaccine, they can occasionally make your pet feel quite poorly for 24 hours or so. Some cats will get small ‘nodules’ where they have been vaccinated and this may cause them a little pain. These should resolve over a few days.
Very occasionally animals can suffer a hypersensitivity reaction (bit like a human anaphylactic reaction) and these can be serious and need to be treated by the vet urgently.
There is also some evidence that, very occasionally, cats can develop certain types of mass around the area the injection has been given. This can be potentially very serious and if you notice any lumps or nodules around the scruff area that don’t appear to be going away get them checked. There are many different forms of vaccine and your vet will advise you as to the specific formula they are using and any side effects you may see.