Vaccinations for your cat
There has been much controversy about vaccinating children in the last few years. Much of the issue came about due to an article published in a British medical journal concerning vaccination and a link to autism. A thorough review of this hypothesis has been done, and the supposed link has been discounted. Many children have not been vaccinated due to these fears, and also due to the fact that their parents have no experience with these diseases. Vaccination is a modern miracle that we take for granted. Just like any medical procedure benefit vs. risk needs to be weighed.
This brings up the points of when should we vaccinate our pets, how often should we vaccinate, and what vaccines are necessary. It is really best to consider pets on an individual basis in making recommendations.
Looking at cats, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) considers two vaccines as core vaccinations for all cats. These are the combination vaccine for feline distemper, rhinotracheitis and calici virus plus rabies vaccination. Rabies is required by law to not only protect your cat, but also to protect anyone around the cat. The virus is present in the wildlife population, especially raccoons and bats. Kittens are vaccinated at 3-4 months of age, boostered 1 year later, and then every year. The vaccines are very safe and effective.
Distemper is a viral disease of cats that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Many cats die or are euthanized if they have the disease. Vaccination is very effective, and the number of distemper infected cats has gone down dramatically since I have been in practice. Rhinotracheitis and calici virus are both severe respiratory infections. Kitens are given a series of vaccines usually at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. The vaccine is boostered 1 year later, and then every 3 years. Some people argue that the combination vaccine lasts longer than 3 years. The truth is we really do not know. A titer test can be taken on your cat to check to see if immunity is still adequate, if follow up vaccination is an issue for you.
The AAFP recommends that all kittens be vaccinated for Feline Leukemia Virus. This vaccine is certainly prudent if your cat goes outside at all. The disease is contagious through secretions from an infected cat. The disease can cause several syndromes including immune suppression, certain lymphoid cancers, anemia, and leukemia. There is no specific treatment for feline leukemia, and it is eventually fatal. I do not vaccinate cats that are totally indoors in a closed population. (No new additions unless tested negative for the disease). Cats that spend any time outdoors should be vaccinate twice as a kitten, and then boostered yearly.
I have had many clients question whether indoor cats need any vaccines. In the last few years I have had 3 totally indoor cats get exposed to rabies. In two instances bats got in the house, and the cat s were trying to catch them. In both cases the bats were captured, and they tested positive for rabies. In one instance a couple had a raccoon break into their porch and fight with the household cat. That animal also tested positive.
Discuss with your veterinarian a protocol for your pet. The opinions in this article are mine alone.