Initial vaccinations for cats
When should my kitten have its first vaccinations?
In general, an initial vaccination course is made up of 2 separate injections 3 - 4weeks apart. The most important part of this is your kitten must be over 12 weeks old at the time of the second vaccination.
By convention, in the UK, most kittens have their first vaccination at 9 weeks and the second at 12 weeks.
When can my kitten go out?
Strictly speaking, your kitten is not going to be fully protected by the vaccinations until 10 days or so AFTER the second vaccination and so you should be very careful where you allow your kitten to go until then. It is also worth being sure your kitten is familiar enough with local surroundings before they go off on their adventures. However there is a balance to be reached between being safe and allowing your kitten to socialize. The best option is to talk to your vet and get their advice for your specific local environment and circumstances.
What am I having my cat vaccinated for?
The vaccinations your cat receives will vary but in 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)
But I’ve never seen these diseases, why bother?
This is a common question and motivates some people not to bother vaccinating.
These diseases are thankfully fairly uncommon amongst vaccinated animals these days but this is mainly due to the widespread vaccination regime in operation. In areas of unvaccinated animals these diseases are very common and often fatal.
Anecdotally, there is nothing worse than going through the trauma and often expense, of treating then losing your pet to a disease that you could have simply and effectively avoided through vaccinations.
I’ve read somewhere that annual vaccinations are not required and are just a way for my vet to make money.
Research is constantly being done into these questions and protocols are constantly being updated and altered to fit the latest advice.
It is ultimately for you to decide what to do but here are a few points you’re unlikely to hear from these camps. Before you decide not to go for vaccinations we would urge you to have a good chat with your vet and allow 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 rigourously tested and checked to minimize 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 vaccination that has made them ‘disappear’.
- In areas with low vaccination rates many of these diseases are very common still, and demonstrates that these diseases are still out there and not eradicated. It is heart-breaking to see an animal die of a readily preventable disease.
Do I need my cat to be vaccinated against everything?
This depends on your specific circumstances and likely exposure for your cat. Some of these bugs can be carried into and out of the house on clothing or just through the environment. In general, houses where there is only one cat and they don’t go out, are at low risk from Felv and often this injection is omitted.
Will my cat be ill after vaccinating?
The vast majority of animals will be fine! Whilst modern day vaccines are incredibly safe and reliable, like any vaccine, they can occasionally make your pet feel quite poorly for 24hours or so (ba it like the human flu vaccine).
Some cats will get small ‘nodules’ where they have been vaccinated and it is sometimes sore. These should resolve over a few days.
Very, 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 some evidence that very, very, 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!
The best thing is to talk to your vet. There are many different forms of vaccine and your vet will be able to advise you best as to the specific formula they are using and any side effects they may see.
Please note: this advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more about what to do in an out of hours emergency.