Vaccinations are a way of preventing disease by introducing (usually via injection) a weakened or killed form of the disease-causing organism. This stimulates an immune response which helps prevent the animal (or human) developing the full-blown disease should it be exposed to the pathogen in the future. The most common vaccination in the cat is known as F3 or FCRVP, this is commonly referred to as F3 and is a core vaccine.
Kitten vaccination schedule
Maternally derived antibodies (MDA) can affect the effectiveness of vaccines which is why your kitten will require a series of THREE shots instead of just the one. Vaccinations in kittens should commence at 8 weeks of age. The guideline below is for the F3 (FCRVP) vaccine only. Speak to your veterinarian about the timing and frequency of the non-core vaccines.
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.
* Where applicable.
The F3 core vaccination covers the following diseases:
At the very least, your kitten needs the F3 vaccination, listed above. State and government requirements may also require you to have your cat vaccinated for rabies if you live in certain countries such as the United States of America.
There are also noncore vaccinations which may be given, depending on the circumstances (such as if the cat is a breeding cat, is it indoors only or allowed outside too) and location.
The APVMA list non-core vaccinations as:
Feline leukaemia virus
Feline immunodeficiency virus
Other vaccines may include rabies and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Rabies is considered a core vaccine in countries such as the United States of America, so check with your local veterinarian as to what vaccinations they recommend.
The F4 vaccine includes the addition of Chlamydophila psittaci, and the F5 vaccine includes Feline leukemia. There are side effects associated with a small percentage of cats who receive the F4 vaccine including lethargy, lameness, depression, anorexia, fever and therefore it is only recommended for high-risk situations.
Annual boosters are the subject of much-heated debate. Many believe it is not necessary to vaccinate every year, and in fact, this can put the cat at risk of vaccine-associated sarcoma (VAS).
They recommend an annual booster of the F3 vaccine at 12 months and then no more frequently than every three years for low-risk cats. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) updated their policy and guidelines on cats which states that…
“The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) believes that in most cases, core vaccines need not be administered any more frequently than triennially and that even less frequent vaccination may be considered appropriate if an individual animal’s circumstances warrant it. However, local factors may dictate more frequent vaccination scheduling.”
If you are uncomfortable with the idea of tri-annual vaccinations, you can request your vet perform a titer test on your cat to see if he still has protective antibodies against the pathogens that vaccinations protect against. The cost of a titer test is similar to that of a vaccination.
If you do decide to go with tri-annual vaccinations, it will still be necessary for your cat to see a veterinarian every year for his annual check-up.
It must be noted that there are some situations where an annual vaccination may be compulsory for example boarding catteries and cat shows usually require a cat be up to date with its vaccinations before admission. Your veterinarian is always the best person to speak to when it comes to the frequency and type of vaccinations your cat should have.