What Vaccines Does Your Cat Need?

Vaccinations are a part of a healthy life. They benefit both humans and animals by helping to control the spread of infectious diseases. There are many people who do not see eye-to-eye on the need for vaccinations, and it is a topic that has largely been debated through the years, but the fact remains that they have, and will continue to save lives for both species.

Cat experts know the importance of vaccinating cats, which is why leaders in the field of felines, including many who have helped put together the American Association of Feline Practitioners’ (AAFP) Guidelines for Vaccines, and the guidelines are continually being updated every several years. Dr. Margie Scherk, editor of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, chaired the last panel of cat experts who assembled in 2013 to update the guidelines, and if you review her findings on feline vaccinations, you’ll see that she has a very different opinion than a lot of cat owners and caretakers that feel cats are over-vaccinated. In fact, Dr. Sherk’s says, “We’re not over-vaccinating; we’re actually under-vaccinating cats.” She believes some of the problem lies with owners not taking to their cat to see a veterinarian so they don’t even know about vaccinations; what they are for and which vaccines are needed.

Cats do need certain vaccinations to help prevent a number of feline diseases. Feline vaccinations are broken down into two categories: Core and Noncore. Core vaccines are those recommended for all cats, while non-core are recommended for specific “risk category” cats. This means, on an individual basis. If you have been getting your kitty her vaccinations recommended by your vet, cat experts say, good for you. But if you are new to cat ownership or are considering getting a cat and would like to know, what vaccines does your cat need? We have the recommended list of both core and non-core feline vaccinations, so keep reading to learn more.

Core vaccines

The following are the vaccines the AAFP Advisory Panel recommends all cats receive:

  • Feline panleukopenia (FPV)
  • Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1)
  • Feline calicivirus (FCV)

Non-core vaccines

The following are the non-core vaccines the AAFP recommends are given to cats on an individual basis, determined by the veterinarian. If your cat fits a specific risk group, or falls into a certain category, your vet may recommend other vaccinations. Things that could influence the need for the following vaccines may include, the cat’s lifestyle, and the cat’s caretaker’s lifestyle (do they care for or foster stray cats, etc.).

  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Rabies
  • Bordatella bronchiseptica
  • Chlamydophila felis
  • Dermatophyte vaccines
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)

Why is rabies a non-core vaccine, and should it be a core?

A lot of people (cat owners) think since their cat is strictly an indoor cat, there is no need for a rabies vaccine, however, according to Dr. Donna Alexander, administer of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control, this shouldn’t be the guidelines for rabies vaccines. Even indoor cats can have an encounter with a rabid animal, for instance, a bat in the house, or the cat escapes out the door without notice and has a run-in with a rabid raccoon. Dr. Richard Ford, emeritus professor of medicine, North Carolina State University, agrees. He says, “Rabies has got to be core for cats.” He feels that if they are required for dogs, they should also be for cats. As a matter-of-fact, over half the states require rabies vaccines for cats by law.

How often are cats recommended to be vaccinated?

It depends. Some are needed once followed by a booster after a year, and others are just needed as recommended. One of the vaccines, the FeLV, Feline Leukemia vaccination, is given to all kittens in shelters. It helps protect them better when they are vaccinated immediately, however, the AAFP’s recommendation is that it becomes a non-core vaccine after the first year booster is given. The FeLV is one that is given depending on the cat’s situation, for instance, is the cat at risk of being exposed to the virus; maybe he lives with several other cats, or with a feline that is already infected by the virus. In this case, the cat should be given a FeLV vaccine. A note of caution is that this vaccine that can be harmful if given to a cat who already has the virus.

More and more, vet care is becoming more of a practice of individualized medicine. This means that many vaccine recommendations are going to recommended and based on what the doctor feels is best for the individual feline.

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