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Cat Vaccination - Everything You Need To Know

Vaccinations have greatly reduced the incidence of a number of infectious diseases over the past few decades. They work by introducing either a modified live vaccine which contains viruses that have been altered so that they are no longer able to cause disease, or a killed off disease-causing organism (virus or bacteria) to the body.

This, in turn, stimulates the immune system, making it better able to defend against the disease should it be exposed to the cat at a future date.

Core vaccines are vaccinations which should be given to cats regardless of location. Diseases covered by the core vaccinations are:

The core vaccination is known as F3.

Non-core vaccinations are vaccinations which may not be necessary for all cats. One example is the rabies vaccine for cats living in Australia. As we don't have rabies in Australia, the vaccine isn't required. None core vaccines include:

Are there any side effects to vaccinating my cat?

Some kittens may be a little lethargic or listless after a vaccination. This generally passes within 24 hours.

Soreness may occur at the spot the vaccine was administered. This should be gone within a day or two.

A small, painless lump may occur at the spot of the vaccine. This will generally go away within a few weeks, but it is important to keep an eye on the lump. If it doesn't go away, or if it increases in size, seek veterinary attention.

Hair loss at the site of injection may occur in some cases. This will grow back in time.

Intranasal administration of vaccines can cause mild sneezing and discharge.

While rare, sometimes there can be side effects. Pregnant cats should not be vaccinated as the developing fetuses are at risk of damage by the vaccine viruses. Fetal death, miscarriage or birth defects can occur with certain vaccines.

Severe allergic or anaphylactic reactions to the vaccine can occur in very rare cases.

Vaccine-associated sarcomas (VAS), which are a type of cancer that results from vaccinations can develop, especially rabies and feline leukemia vaccines. The occurrence of VAS is estimated to be 1 to 10 per 1,000 cats vaccinated.

Do bear in mind that while there is a small chance of side effects occurring, vaccines have prevented millions of cats developing life-threatening diseases and saved lives.

How are cat vaccines administered?

Most vaccines are administered via injection under the skin (usually at the scruff of the neck), there may be a little discomfort, but it is minor and only lasts a second or two. Some vaccines can be given intranasally.

Some veterinarians prefer to administer vaccinations in the legs, this is due to the slight risk of vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS). The theory is if the cat does develop VAS, it is easier to amputate the affected limb, giving the cat a better chance of survival. If this is the case, the FeLV vaccine will be injected under the skin on the left rear leg and the rabies vaccine will be injected under the skin of the right rear leg.

Are cat vaccinations necessary?

Yes, the most of the diseases vaccinated against are deadly to cats.
 

Do indoor cats need to be vaccinated?

Indoor cats still need to be vaccinated. Many vets now believe it is not necessary to vaccinate yearly and every three years is adequate. This will depend on your individual situation and where you are located.

When should my cat be vaccinated?

F3 (1st shot)

8 weeks

F3 (2nd shot)

12 weeks

F3 (3rd shot)

16 weeks

F3 (booster shot)

12 months

Rabies *

12 weeks

Rabies *(booster)

12 months

Then every 1-3 years or as recommended by your veterinarian.