Welcoming a cat into your home is an exciting time for your family and no doubt they’ll receive plenty of love and affection. But as well as giving them lots of cuddles, one of the best things you can do for your new feline friend is get them vaccinated.
Vaccinating your cat
Vaccines play a vital role in protecting your cat from potentially fatal diseases and although you might be worried about them, vaccines are extremely safe and have been used for years to give beloved pets the best possible protection against horrible diseases. Many diseases have been wiped out thanks to vaccinations, and there are just a few seconds of very minimal discomfort for a life of health and wellness for your cat.
Why do cats need vaccinations?
Just as humans need protection from life-threatening infectious diseases like Tetanus or Polio, so do cats.
If your cat is a house cat, you’d be forgiven for wondering if they need their vaccinations. Yet even if they never actually step foot outside your front door, viruses and bacteria can be carried in on your shoes or clothing. All it takes is a curious kitten to play with these items for them to be infected with something nasty.
What vaccinations do cats need?
There are several vaccines that will help keep your cat safe, and your vet will talk to you about which ones are right for you.
Kittens typically need their primary inoculations at eight to nine weeks of age and then a second injection three to four weeks later. Your kitten will need a booster vaccination when they’re a year old and then every one to three years after that.
There are three essential vaccinations for cats:
Feline parvovirus (FPV)
Also, known as feline panleukopenia, FPV can cause severe illness in cats and is often fatal in kittens. It infects the gut and immune system causing vomiting, diarrhoea and sometimes death.
There are two viruses which cause cat flu - Feline Herpes Virus (FHV) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV). Cat flu is a bit like human flu, causing the same kind of symptoms; fever, runny nose, loss of appetite, lethargy and sneezing, but in cats, it can also cause mouth and eye ulcers. Unlike human flu which mostly gets better after a couple of weeks of feeling poorly, your cat can become a lifelong carrier and suffer regular flare ups. It can be particularly severe for kittens whose immune systems aren’t strong enough to fight it off.
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
This virus attacks the immune system causing cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma. It also damages your cat’s immune system, increasing their risk of other serious diseases. It’s tough to diagnose as the symptoms are typically vague – weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, diarrhoea - so you often don’t know your cat has it until they’re severely ill. There’s no cure for FeLV so if your cat is diagnosed, they’ll need lifelong treatment and special care at home to keep them healthy for as long as possible.
Non-essential vaccinations - your vet can advise you on which ones your cat needs:
This bacterium causes painful conjunctivitis and discharge from the eyes. It usually infects kittens and is often seen in multi-cat households or catteries where there are unvaccinated cats.
Rabies is a virus which affects the brain and nerves. It is fatal to both animals and humans and there is no cure. Your cat will only need the jab if you’re travelling outside the UK with them.
This bacterium causes flu-like symptoms and affects the chest, sometimes leading to pneumonia. It can be fatal in kittens and cause serious illness in adult cats.
Are there any side effects to vaccinations for cats?
Vaccines are very safe and reactions to them are extremely rare. More common side effects may include low energy, eating less, sleeping more, high temperature or mild swelling at the injection site. These typically will resolve quickly without any treatment. Less common side effects include twitching, limping, diarrhoea and vomiting. These are temporary and your cat may need a little more TLC than usual.
In extremely rare cases, a cat may suffer a more severe reaction such as seizures, collapsing or difficulty breathing. If you’re at all worried about your pet, call your vet straight away.
What if my cat has missed their vaccination?
If your cat has missed its vaccinations, , they can still be vaccinated. Depending on how long it’s been their immune response may have slowed and they might need to start the process again. Your vet will tell you what’s best. It’s also a good idea to keep them away from any unvaccinated animals until they’ve had all their jabs.
Do senior cats still need boosters?
The short answer is yes, because your cat’s immune system memory declines over time. There’s currently no way to measure immune memory for all diseases that we vaccinate against, so if you want to keep your cat safe, it’s vital you get them boosted. It’s particularly important for older cats whose immune function reduces as they age.
How to prepare your cat for vaccinations?
You should give yourself plenty of time to coax your cat into their carrier and stay calm, speaking in a soft, low voice while you’re doing it – if they see you’re stress-free they’re far less likely to become agitated themselves.
The carrier should be comfortable and lined with a familiar blanket and toys which smell like home. You can also use a few treats to help calm them. Try and keep the time they’re in there to a minimum and keep some of their favourite snacks on hand.
What happens at a cat health check and vaccination appointment?
The appointment isn’t just for vaccinating your cat, it’s a chance for your vet to give them a health check and spot any early signs of ill health. It is also an opportunity to discuss prevention of many ailments, parasites and diseases that your cat may experience, particularly as it ages. It is also a great opportunity for routine testing e.g. urine tests to monitor kidney function. Vets are used to handling cats, even difficult ones, and they’ll be gentle and mindful of your pet’s safety.
To find out more about getting your cat vaccinated, contact your local Medivet.
Spread the cost of vaccinations with the Medivet Health Plan
When you sign up to the Medivet Health Plan, your cat's vaccinations are included in the monthly cost. This enables you to spread the cost of vaccinations and receive reminders when a vaccination is due.
Other benefits of the Medivet Healthcare Plan include:
- Full course of vaccinations
- Complete flea, worm and tick protection for the year
- Six month health check by a vet
- Discounts on vet care, dental and food
- Microchipping (if required)
Get in touch to microchip your cat or kitten
A microchip is the best chance for a wandering cat to be reunited with their owner. Read on to find out why you should get your cat microchipped and what to do if you move home or change your details.
Owning a cat is a huge commitment, but also incredibly rewarding. Whether you’re a first-time cat owner or have experience, refresh your knowledge of responsible cat ownership with our complete guide.