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A close-up of an orange and white cat with long fur, looking to the side against a plain white background. The cat's eyes are closed, and it appears to be relaxed or sleepy.
Pet Blog

What Vaccines Does My Cat Need?

This post is written by holistic veterinarian at "I and love and you", Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT.

Vaccines can be a tricky subject surrounded by much debate about their safety and efficacy. A quick google search will leave you feeling so confused by all the conflicting views. In this article, I am going to provide you with some clarity to aid you in your decision making.

First, let’s address a few myths.

  • Myth #1. Vaccines don’t work. The truth is, some vaccines work better than others. Fortunately for cats, most vaccines are pretty effective.
  • Myth #2. One vaccine lasts the life of your cat. I wish this were true! I would like nothing else than to vaccinate my patients once and be done for life. The duration of immunity depends on the vaccine technology and your cat’s individual immune system.
  • Myth #3. Vaccines are 100% safe. Once again, I wish this were also true! In most cases, vaccines are safe. Unfortunately, there are occasions when things go awry. Getting a vaccine is a medical procedure, and sometimes there are side effects.

Cat Vaccine Schedule

Vaccines are categorized as core and non-core. Core vaccines are generally recommended for most cats. Non-core vaccines are recommended based on your cat’s lifestyle (exposure to other kitties, living outside etc).

Types of Cat Vaccines

  • Rabies (Core). This vaccine protects against the Rabies virus that is often transmitted by bats, skunks and other mammals. It is uniformly fatal for mammals, including people. The first Rabies vaccine is generally given at 4 months of age and is boostered one year later. Most counties require the Rabies vaccine be given every three years after.
  • FVRCP (Core). This vaccine protects against a group of respiratory diseases that are common and contagious among cats. This vaccine is given at 8 weeks and is boostered a couple times during kittenhood. It then follows the Rabies schedule and is given one year later and then every three years.
  • Feline Leukemia (Non-core). This vaccine protects against a virus that is transmitted between cats via saliva and causes suppression of the immune system. This vaccine is given twice as a kitten and then every 1-3 years depending on the vaccine brand and your cat’s risk.

Vaccine Related Sarcomas

Unfortunately, cats can rarely develop an aggressive form of cancer at the injection site of certain vaccines. For this reason, veterinarians are starting to vaccinate cats on their tail or lower on the leg. This is helpful so that a tumor can be successfully removed by amputation. While this is unlikely to happen to your kitty, it’s an important consideration and something you can discuss with your veterinarian before vaccinating.

A good veterinarian will be happy to discuss the pros and cons of each vaccine with you. When considering which vaccines to give your cat, consider the risk of the disease versus the risk of the vaccine. If you have more questions, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, and let’s chat.

With love,

Dr. Angie