What are Some Feline Vaccines?

Mary McMahon

A number of vaccines are available to cats, ranging from rabies vaccines to vaccinations against infections like giardia and ringworm. Because cats lead very diverse lives, vaccination schedules for feline vaccines can vary widely, and it is a good idea to consult your veterinarian about the vaccines which would be best for your cat. Your vet will consider the cat's age and lifestyle to determine which vaccines should be administered, and when. As a general rule, cats receive a series of vaccinations as kittens, and periodic adult boosters, typically every three years, although your veterinarian may have a different recommendation.

Feline vaccines are used to protect cats from preventable diseases.
Feline vaccines are used to protect cats from preventable diseases.

The feline vaccines which are highly recommended for all cats include: feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, feline calicivirus/feline herpes virus type I, and the rabies vaccine. Feline distemper and rabies are both deadly to cats, and even indoor cats are at risk for feline distemper, which can be airborne. Furthermore, rabies vaccinations are required by law in some areas.

The Giardia parasite can cause intestinal problems in cats.
The Giardia parasite can cause intestinal problems in cats.

For cats who go outdoors, vaccination against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is highly recommended. In addition to these basic feline vaccines, cats can also be vaccinated for ringworm, chlamydia, feline infectious peritonitis, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), bordetella, and giardia. However, these feline vaccines are not recommended for all cats, and they should be discussed with a veterinarian.

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Cats are commonly vaccinated against ringworm, FIV, bordetella, and giardia.
Cats are commonly vaccinated against ringworm, FIV, bordetella, and giardia.

Like all vaccines, feline vaccines do come with potential risks, ranging from a mild malaise after vaccination to a severe toxic reaction. Cats have also developed a condition known as vaccine-related sarcoma, a type of soft tissue cancer, in response to some vaccines. Studies on feline vaccines have attempted to reduce the sarcoma risk, and a competent veterinarian should be able to discuss the issue with you when considering which feline vaccines to administer. If your cat does develop a sarcoma, you should ensure that it is reported to an organization which tracks vaccine-related sarcoma, as such organizations rely heavily on data from the general cat population.

Rabies in cats can be prevented through vaccination.
Rabies in cats can be prevented through vaccination.

Be aware that feline vaccines are often required for cats when they travel. Moving to a foreign country often requires proof of vaccination, and sometimes quarantine as well, to ensure that your cat will not introduce harmful diseases to a new location. In some regions, pet passports are available for animals that travel regularly, to smooth border crossings with proof of vaccinations and regular health exams.

Cats allowed outdoors are exposed to numerous health threats and may require vaccines that indoor cats may not.
Cats allowed outdoors are exposed to numerous health threats and may require vaccines that indoor cats may not.
Vaccination against feline leukemia virus is highly recommended for cats that go outdoors.
Vaccination against feline leukemia virus is highly recommended for cats that go outdoors.

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