- Cats should be vaccinated to protect them from infectious diseases
- The main diseases are cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
- Kittens can be vaccinated from 9 weeks, with a second injection 3 weeks later
- Cats must be vaccinated before going into a cattery
Why should I vaccinate my cat?
To protect them against infectious diseases – these can be picked up from other cats, and from the environment (eg feline enteritis), and some viruses can be transferred by owners on shoes and clothes.
What are the main diseases?
- Cat Flu – caused by infection with two types of virus, Feline Herpes Virus and/or Calicivirus. This leads to signs of a severe cold/flu – cats will sneeze, have a high temperature, runny nose, sore runny eyes and sometimes mouth ulcers. They often stop eating as a result. Cats will often become carriers, so will shed virus at times for the rest of their lives. If they are stressed (eg by a car journey or a trip to the cattery or vets) their immunity falls and the virus flares up, so signs of cat flu come back. Cats catch flu by close contact with other cats, but the viruses can also survive in the environment. Infection with flu viruses is very common and can be severe (especially in kittens) so vaccination is crucial to protect them from these debilitating viruses.
- Feline Enteritis (also called Feline Parvovirus or feline panleucopaenia virus) causes a very severe form of diarrhoea, often with blood, and is frequently fatal. It can cause sudden death without any clinical signs at all, so cats are wrongly assumed to have been poisoned. Vaccination is extremely effective at stopping this awful disease.
- Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) – this is the biggest infectious killer of cats in the UK. It is spread in cat saliva, eg by fighting, mutual grooming, sharing food/water bowls and litter trays. Kittens can also be infected in the womb. We don’t see this disease as often as we used to, as vaccination has helped control it, but when we do it is often in young cats as they are more susceptible than older cats. Therefore we recommend all kittens are vaccinated against FeLV. It is diagnosed by a blood test, which also tests for another viral disease called FIV.
We can also vaccinate cats against Bordetella bronchiseptica (Bb), which causes signs of cat flu (but is less common than Herpes and Calicivirus) and kennel cough in dogs. It can be a problem in stressed cats and large colonies, so some catteries require cats to have Bb vaccination as well as flu vaccines. The vaccine is a small volume of fluid that is squirted up the cat’s nose.
Chlamydophilia – this is a bacteria which causes severe conjunctivitis in cats. The vaccine is usually only used in breeding catteries or if owners with large numbers of cats.
Does my cat need to be vaccinated as he never goes out?
Yes, even if he never goes out, he should be vaccinated against with the 'core' vaccines,ie flu and enteritis, owing to the widespread and/or severe nature of these diseases.
However, owners frequently tell us their cat lives alone and never goes outside 'other than on the back garden'! Some owners say their cats don't go out, then bring them in because they’ve got a cat bite abscess, ie they've been bitten by another cat.
Also some cats are escape artists:
In all these circumstances, these cats should be vaccinated against cat flu, enteritis and leukaemia.
Does my cat need to be vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia?
Leukaemia is regarded as a 'non-core' vaccine, ie it isn't essential for all cats, depending on their risk. If they are genuinely indoor cats who never come into contact with other cats, they won't need FeLV vaccination. But they should still be vaccinated against flu and enteritis (the 'core' vaccines).
Leukaemia can be spread via faeces, urine or saliva. If a stray cat comes in your house and eats your cat’s food, it
could spread viruses especially FeLV via saliva on the bowl. Similarly, if an infected cat sprays urine in your house, again your cat is at risk of catching Leukaemia if the cat is infected.
The take home message is simple - make sure your cats are vaccinated, and have regular boosters, to protect them against these serious diseases.
Does my cat need booster injections?
Yes, these are needed to ensure your cat continues to have immunity to these diseases. The vaccines we use are very safe, and are typically given annually.
My cat is getting very old now, do I need to keep bringing him in for boosters?
Absolutely – older cats (like older people) have reduced immunity and ability to fight infections (that’s why elderly people are advised to have flu vaccinations). The other reason is that you cat will receive a full health check by one of our vets - we often find health problems during these examinations, ensuring prompt diagnosis and treatment. We can also give advice about diet for the older patient, weigh them and worm them.
For more information about cat vaccines, please click here, which will take you to the International Cat Care website