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Health & care

Cat vaccinations: here's what you need to know

Date updated: 17 11 2017

That tiny, furry bundle of mischief is finally home - and while they might think they’re a tiger, they actually need a little help staying out of harm’s way!

Both indoors and outdoors cats need to be ready to face the big wide world, and vaccinations are an important part of this. As well as protecting against some pretty nasty diseases, they also prevent your moggy from passing anything on to other feline friends.

What's the point of cat vaccinations?

Vaccinations give your buddy’s natural immune system what it needs to deal with invisible nasties.

With a vaccine, your pet is exposed to a safe form of a particular disease. Their immune system learns how to respond to that organism, so if they come into contact with it later on, they can fight it off.  

What diseases does vaccination protect against?

The vaccination programme your cat will need comes down to a number of factors - including medical history, where you live, whether it’s an indoor or outdoor cat, and whether there are any other furry friends in the house.

Here’s what’s typically covered in the UK:

- Feline infectious enteritis (FIE, feline panleukopenia, feline parvovirus). Responsible for a severe form of gastroenteritis that’s fatal in some cases and can lead to brain damage in kittens infected shortly before or after birth.

- Cat flu. Vaccinations are available for FHV-1 and FCV, responsible for most cases of cat flu. Symptoms include a weepy nose, eyes and ears, inflamed throat, coughing and, occasionally, pneumonia and skin infections. The disease can vary from being mild to very severe - sometimes fatal.

- Feline chlamydophilosis (Chlamydophila felis, feline chlamydophila infection). This bacteria causes mild to severe conjunctivitis. It’s most common in young cats living in multi-cat households.

- Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). Causing persistent infection and progressive anaemia, most cats infected with FeLV die within three years. Transmission is via direct cat-to-cat contact.

- Feline bordetellosis. The feline version of the upper respiratory tract infection known as ‘kennel cough’. Common in multi-cat households, the bacteria can also be spread between cats and dogs.

- Rabies. A must for cats moving abroad or coming into the UK from abroad.

When should I vaccinate my cat?

Again, follow the advice of your vet. Kittens should have their first jabs at nine weeks old. Three or four weeks later, they get their second set.

For your typical cat, the third and fourth months of life can be pretty action-packed. Ideally, they stay with mum for the first eight to 12 weeks (all that maternal milk helps boost their immune system). After that, they’re usually off to their new home!

So if a new kitten is joining your crew, it’s important to find out exactly where she’s at with her jabs. Is she somewhere between the first and second set? If the written vaccination record isn’t available, hit up the previous owner’s vet to find out what needs to be done - and when.

Annual booster vaccinations are generally recommended right through adulthood. So no matter the age of your new cat, registering her with a vet should be top of the to-do list when she arrives at your home.

Does it hurt - and are there any side effects?  

With the exception of the kennel cough vaccine (given as drops in the nose), vaccines are administered by way of injection. You can relax, though: vets and vet nurses are pro’s at delivering them quickly and painlessly.

Your buddy might seem a little off-colour for a day or two after the injection. But don’t worry; it’s perfectly natural! Think of a vaccination as a gentle dress rehearsal for the immune system - so they know how to handle the “real deal” when they need to.

Serious side effects are very rare. And as your vet will tell you, the risk of a bad reaction is much lower than the risk of going unprotected and picking up a nasty disease!    

All part of keeping your buddy happy, healthy and safe...

Some things we can’t prevent. As we all know, there are a-hundred-and-one ways for your buddy to get in a scrape, which is why pet insurance is the purr-fect way to make sure they get the help they need when they need it.

But some illnesses, we CAN control. That’s why cover for vaccine-treatable diseases is routinely excluded from pet insurance. So if you haven’t already, speak to your vet today and give your furry friend the protection they deserve.

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