Pet Information


Feline Vaccinations

New diseases are now killing millions of cats each year. It is estimated that at least 10% of all cats in this country are infected with one or more of these viruses. Once your cat becomes infected with one of these diseases, your cat can die. There are no effective treatments or cures. Laboratory tests are also available to diagnose cats that are infected with these deadly viruses. Vaccinations are now available for many of them. Therefore our major strategy for maintaining a healthy pet is by preventing the spread of these infections through blood testing and vaccination.

Kittens are provided some immunity to feline diseases before and shortly after birth. The mother's antibodies cross the placenta and enter the kittens' circulation. Some antibodies are also provided in the mother's milk. These "maternal antibodies" protect the kittens against the diseases to which the mother is immune. Although very protective, maternal antibodies last for only a few weeks; after this time, the kitten becomes susceptible to disease. The vaccination program should be started at about 6 to 8 weeks of age.

Vaccinations may be divided into two categories: Core and Non-Core.

CORE VACCINES: Core vaccines are those vaccines, which every cat should receive, regardless of lifestyle and exposure to other cats. These include rabies, distemper, (feline panleukopenia), calicivirus and herpesvirus (feline viral rhinotracheitis).

Rabies: Rabies is a Fatal Infection of the nervous system that attacks many warm-blooded animals, including humans. Rabies is a public health hazard and a personal risk to all pet owners. All states require vaccination against rabies. Rabies can be transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Even cats kept indoors can come in contact with a rabies carrier in a basement, garage, or attic. Because there is no cure for rabies, vaccination is your pet’s only protection. This vaccine is given as a single dose, then an adult booster a year later. In Georgia, the adult rabies vaccine may the given every 3 years.

Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper): Feline distemper is among the most widespread of all cat diseases, and is extremely contagious. Characterized by fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, feline panleukopenia causes high death loss, particularly among kittens.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR): FVR is a highly contagious respiratory disease characterized by sneezing, loss of appetite, fever, and eye inflammation. As the disease progresses, a discharge is noticeable from both nose and eyes.

Feline Calcivirus (FCV): FCV is another serious feline respiratory infection. Often occurring simultaneously with Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR). Signs of infection are similar to FVR (fever, loss of appetite, nasal discharge), but calicivirus infected cats may also have ulcers on the tongue.

Feline Pneumonitis: Is caused by the organism Chlamydia psitacci. Signs of pneumonitis are similar to Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Feline Calcivirus (FCV) (sneezing, fever, loss of appetite, nasal discharge, and inflamed eyes).

Although the distemper combination vaccine is labeled to be given every year to adult cats, evidence now supports that the protection last longer. The recommendation for adult cats is a booster every 3 years after the first adult booster.

NON-CORE VACCINES: Non-core vaccines are those vaccines which may or may not be necessary since the diseases they prevent occur sporadically, are more common in specific circumstances, or are new or “emerging” diseases. These vaccines are available and can be given based on your cat’s risk.

Feline Leukemia (FeLV): Feline leukemia destroys the cat’s immune system causing anemia, cancer, and a lowered resistance to fight off other diseases that a healthy cat would not get. A blood test is available to help diagnose the disease. It is recommended that all new cats brought into a household be tested before being exposed to other cats in the house. Proper vaccination includes an initial series of 2 injections followed by annual boosters. To ensure immunity, testing the cat before vaccination is recommended to ensure the cat is not already infected even though no clinical signs are evident. We often recommend that every cat receives the complete the kitten series of FeLV vaccines as kittens and young adult cats are at highest risk of contracting the disease.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is also known as “Feline Aids Virus”: FIV is a relative to the HIV virus that causes AIDS in people. This virus does its damage by depressing the cat’s own immune system, making it much more susceptible to other common cat infectious diseases. However we do have an accurate blood test that will tell whether or not the cat is a carrier of the disease. This particular test detects blood “antibodies” to the disease. It takes time for these antibodies to develop in the blood yielding the positive test. Therefore, a recent exposure of 30-90 days or less may not have provided sufficient time for antibodies to develop that would be detected by the test. The vaccine will result in the cat testing positive on the “in-house” test that most veterinary clinics use, so if this vaccine is given, we strongly recommend that a microchip for easy identification is implanted at the same time.

Chlamydophila is another cause of upper respiratory infection. combination vaccine routinely includes the vaccine for this disease. Although it is considered non-core, our FVRCP

Risk of vaccination: In general, vaccines may cause side effects such as localized pain or swelling, low-grade transient fever, and mild lethargy. With any vaccine, allergic reaction is possible resulting in swelling of the face, eyelids, and/ or ears. More concerning is anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal hypersensitivity reaction) which, in cats, is generally seen as severe vomiting and diarrhea or wheezing, usually within half an hour of receiving the vaccine. While there is no direct cause and effect relationship between vaccinations and certain immune-mediated diseases, this continues to be investigated. It is normal to feel a small lump where the vaccine was given, but it should disappear. In cats there is another rare but serious reaction called Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma. This is estimated to occur in 1-2 out of 10,000 cats, where a cancerous lump develops soon after or even several years after a vaccination, injection, or even trauma (not associated with vaccine). The cause is unclear. Overall, the risk of any reaction is quiet small compared to the risk of the diseases the vaccines protect against.


  • Try to keep your cat indoors to minimize exposure.
  • Always test and vaccinate any new cats before bringing into the household.
  • Wash your hands after handling or petting any unfamiliar cats outside your home.

REMEMBER: There are no cures for these fatal diseases. Vaccination is your best line of defense.

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