Vaccinating Your Cat

Vaccination offers the most effective way of protecting your cat throughout their life against many of the most serious infectious and fatal diseases.

These include:

  • Feline Panleucopenia (also known as Feline Distemper or Feline Infectious Enteritis)
  • Cat Flu (also known as Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis)
  • Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)

In the first few weeks of life, kittens are normally protected against disease by antibodies (immunity) from their mother’s milk. This decreases over time and has usually disappeared by 12 weeks of age.

Vaccination then protects your kitten against disease. They receive a course of 2 vaccinations, one at 8 weeks of age and then again at 12 weeks to ensure their immune system has the best chance of mounting a strong, protective response.

After 12 months the immunity levels drop and a regular, annual booster is required to maintain the highest possible level of protection against serious disease. This should be continued throughout your cat’s life.

Feline Panleucopenia

Feline Panleucopenia is characterised by:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Death especially in kittens and unborn kittens in an infected cat’s womb

The virus is a very serious disease with a high risk of death in infected kittens and young cats. The virus is very similar to the one that causes parvovirus in dogs. All unvaccinated cats at any age are at risk.

Infected cats spread the virus in their urine and faeces. The virus is extremely hardy and persists in the environment for many months or years.  Infection can occur by contact with an infected cat or environment or inside the mother’s womb by the virus passing across the placenta from the mother, if she is infected while pregnant.

Cat Flu

Cat Flu is characterised by:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and depression
  • Mouth and eye ulcers and excessive drooling are seen
  • Young kittens can have lameness and fever

Cat flu is still extremely common despite the important contribution made by vaccination. Despite it’s name the causes of cat flu are no relation to human influenza. Cat flu is caused by one or more  viruses, most commonly Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus.

Young kittens and elderly cats are at risk from developing severe pneumonia and dying from infection.

The viruses are relatively sturdy and can survive in the environment for several days. Common forms of infection are by direct contact, sneezing and inhaling infected droplets and direct contact with contaminated environment eg clothing and food bowls. Contact with a cat who is a ‘carrier’ of cat flu is also a source of infection. This is a cat which is not showing any signs of the disease but sheds the virus throughout it’s life.

Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)

Feline Leukaemia is characterised by vague and non- specific signs which can take months or years to develop:

  • Off colour
  • Poor appetite
  • Chronic or recurring problems such as diarrhoea
  • Slow to recover from minor infections
  • Tumour development
  • Anaemia

Feline leukaemia virus is almost always fatal and there is no cure. The infection weakens the immune system causing destruction of white blood cells, leaving your cat open to infection. Anaemia and eventually cancer usually develop.

The virus is spread mainly via saliva for example mutual grooming or sharing food bowls. Also fighting, mating or contact with urine and faeces containing the virus will spread the disease.

All cats are considered to be at risk especially young cats and kittens.

The vast majority of cats spend some time outside and are at risk of coming into contact with infection of any one of these diseases either directly or indirectly.

If your cat is a true indoor cat ie does not even venture out into the garden please discuss vaccination with your veterinary surgeon.
At your cat’s routine booster vaccination appointment, your vet will also perform a thorough healthcheck to ensure your cat is fit and well. These healthchecks are vital to allow us to spot any problems early on and to offer help with routine healthcare issues.

Useful links:
Vaccination and Your Kitten
Vaccinating Your Older Cat