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Vaccinating Your Kitten or Adult Cat

Keeping your kitten or cat updated on their shots and test is an important part of their preventative care. Health threats vary from city to city and even in various sections of cities. Therefore, your veterinarian can tailor an immunization program for your pet based on local conditions. Your kitten or cat generally can be immunized for the following diseases: Cats can be immunized against feline panleukopenia (distemper), rabies, feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, chlamydia, feline leukemia, and FIP.

How do I know which vaccines my kitten or cat needs?

There are two general groups of vaccines to consider: core-group vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core-group vaccines protect against diseases that are more serious or potentially fatal. These diseases are more easily transmitted than non-core diseases. Core group vaccines are those generally recommended for all pets. For cats, these include panleukopenia, calicivirus and herpesvirus, as well as rabies.

Noncore-group vaccines are those reserved for patients at specific risk for infection due to exposure or lifestyle. For cats, these include feline leukemia virus, feline infectious peritonitis, feline pneumonitis, Microsporum canis, and Bordetella. For dogs, these include kennel cough, Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and giardia.


Is vaccinating my cat or kitten a risk to his or her health?

Vaccination against disease is a medical procedure and, like all medical procedures, carries some inherent risk. As in any medical procedure or decision, the advantages must be balanced against the risks. Veterinarians recommend that no needless risks should be taken and that the best way to accomplish that is to reduce the number and frequency of administration of unnecessary vaccines.

As is the case with any medical decision, you and your veterinarian should make vaccination decisions after considering your pet’s age, lifestyle, and potential exposure to infectious diseases.


What possible risks are associated with vaccine shots?

Severe reactions are uncommon, but any needless risk is unacceptable. In general, vaccine reactions and side effects (such as local pain and swelling) are self-limiting. Allergic reactions are less common, but if untreated can be fatal.

In a small number of patients, vaccines can stimulate the patient’s immune system against his or her own tissues, resulting in diseases that affect the blood, the skin, the joints, or the nervous system. Again, such reactions are infrequent.

In a tiny percentage of cats, there has been an increase in a particular form of tumor that is strongly associated with vaccine administration. The reported incidence of this side effect is one in 10,000. Researchers are currently studying this phenomenon to learn what causes the problem so that vaccines can be redesigned to avoid this unacceptable side effect. Meanwhile, reducing risk by reducing the number of unnecessary vaccines given to cats is the safest option.


How often should my cat be vaccinated?

We recommend yearly vaccinations to ensure the best protection for your cat or kitten. Noncore disease vaccinations should be administered whenever the risk of the disease is significant enough to override any risk of vaccination.  Consult you Veterinarian.  By ordinance the City of Mount Pleasant requires the owner or harborer of any domestic animal shall have such animal vaccinated against rabies by the time such animal is four months of age and within every subsequent 12 months thereafter.

Is there some sort of test that can be done to determine if my pet needs vaccination?

In theory, this makes very good sense. Veterinarians could test animals yearly and vaccinate if their protection dropped below a certain level. Although there are tests for antibodies available for some diseases, their reliability is not good. There may be little correlation between the results of these tests and the immunity to disease in an individual pet. In addition, the cost of these tests may greatly outweigh their value. New tests may be developed in the future, so discuss this possibility with your veterinarian.