Cat Vaccinations Schedule & why do they matter?

Cat vaccinations can help to protect your pet against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. Wanting to protect your Meow!, that shows you care and you are a responsible pet owner.

Vaccinations are usually given by an injection under the skin, and they are designed to provide protection against specific infectious diseases. They stimulate the cat’s immune system to build up immunity against the disease(s), so that if your kitty is exposed to it in the future he or she will be protected.

cat and a vet vector

Is vaccination a good idea for your kitten? Vaccinations for people and animals have come under scrutiny lately, so it’s normal that you might have some doubts. In this article we will look at the benefits and risks of vaccinations. We will also discuss when you should bring your kitten for vaccinating and when you shouldn’t.

Why should you bring your cat for vaccination?

Vaccinations are an important part of a preventative healthcare routine to keep your feline friend happy and healthy. Through vaccination you can protect your cat from some serious and life threatening infectious diseases. Some of these diseases are so serious that they are incurable or there is no effective treatment for them, therefore prevention is better than looking for a cure!

Did you know that vaccinating your pet can also help control the spread of infectious diseases within your local cat population?  When a high proportion of cats in a community are vaccinated there is a lower risk for disease outbreaks, this is known as “herd immunity”.

When would be the First Vaccination to your Kitten?

Ideally kitten vaccination should be started when they are 6-8 weeks of age, this will to help protect your little ball of fluff and build their immunity from a young age. Kittens have immature immune systems and therefore, they are at a higher risk of a variety of infections.

Kittens require a series of vaccinations, every 2-4 weeks, until they are around 16 weeks of age. This is because the immunity passed from their mother (maternally derived antibodies) slowly decreases and can interfere with the vaccines.

little kitten vaccinated

Vaccination to your Adult Cat?

If an adult feline has an unknown vaccination history or is having vaccinations for the first time, he will usually require two injections around 3-4 weeks apart. Then boosters are usually given regularly throughout the life to keep them protected. How often an adult cat receives a vaccine booster (every 12 months – 3 years) depends on the type of vaccine being given and your cat’s health status, lifestyle (indoor or outdoor) and where you live.

Cat Vaccination schedule in Australia

The table below shows an example of vaccination schedule for cats. Your vet will make an individual schedule, depending on which vaccines your cat requires.

AgeCore vaccinesNon core Vaccines
6-8 WeeksF3 Vaccine – Herpes, Calicivirus, PanleukopaeniaFIV
10-12 WeeksF3 Vaccine – Herpes, Calicivirus, PanleukopaeniaFIV, FLV, Chlamydophilia felis, bordetella
14-16 WeeksF3 Vaccine – Herpes, Calicivirus, PanleukopaeniaFIV, FLV, Chlamydophilia felis, FIP, Bordetella
1 year oldF3 Vaccine – Herpes, Calicivirus, PanleukopaeniaFIV, FLV, Chlamydophilia felis, FIP, Bordetella
Every 1-3 YEARSF3 Vaccine – Herpes, Calicivirus, Panleukopaenia
Every YearFIV, FLV, Dhlamydophilia felis, FIP, Bordetella
cat vaccination schedule Australia Chart

Cost of Cat vaccinations in Australia

Cost of vaccination may be different to each veterinary clinic, however on average it may cost you between $60 – $80 for a F3 vaccination.

What are core and non core vaccines?

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has defined these terms as :

  • Core vaccines are those vaccines which ALL cats should receive to protect them from severe, life threatening illness. In Australia core vaccines for cats include:
    • Feline herpesvirus
    • Feline calicivirus
    • Feline panleukopaenia 
  • Non-core vaccines are only required by certain cats and it depends on their geographical location, local environment or lifestyle which puts them at risk of catching specific infections.

You can discuss with your veterinarian regarding which vaccines would be best for your kitten, Vet will choose injections depending on where you live and your cat’s lifestyle and needs.

What diseases can you vaccinate your cat against?

Vet can vaccinate your cat against a wide variety of diseases. He or she probably wont need all these vaccinations!, it depends on where you live, the risk of infectious diseases in your local area, if your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat, if you have a breeding colony of cats, and if your cat travels abroad.

Let’s take a look at these feline diseases in a little more detail:

Core vaccines for cats

  • Feline Panleukopenia

This is also known as feline parvovirus or distemper. This viral disease attacks the rapidly dividing cells in the cat’s body, especially the cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow and lymph nodes. This results in shortages of all types of white blood cells (panleukopenia) and red blood cells (anemia), and puts the cat at high risk of contracting other diseases. The damaged intestinal tract often causes the cat to have severe vomiting and diahrrea. Feline panleukopenia is highly contagious, and often fatal, especially in young kittens.

  • Feline Herpesvirus

Feline herpesvirus is one of the most common causes of cat flu or upper respiratory infections in cats. Feline herpesvirus infection is highly contagious and can cause sneezing, conjunctivitis, eye and nose discharge, lethargy and decreased appetite. Some cats can become permanently infected, and continue to show intermittent signs of this disease throughout their life.

  • Feline Calicivirus

Feline calicivirus (also known as cat-flu) is extremely contagious. Typical signs include sneezing, nose and eye discharge, conjunctivitis, tongue ulcers, lethargy and decreased appetite. Occasionally the virus can also cause joint inflammation (arthritis), hepatitis (liver inflammation), or intestinal problems.

Non core vaccines

  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)

If infected, it might take years before a cat starts to show signs. The virus attacks their immune system, leaving it very vulnerable to other infections. It is usually recommended that if your cat ever goes outside then it should be vaccinated against FIV. There is no cure for this disease, and treatment is aimed at supporting the cat.

  • Feline leukaemia(FeLV)

This life threatening disease is more common in outdoor cats. It’s estimated that 80-90% of infected cats die within 3-4 years of FeLV diagnosis. There is no cure for this disease, and treatment is aimed at supporting them.  Cats infected with feline leukaemia often develop:

    • Anemia (low red blood cell level)
    • Immunosuppression (high risk of developing other diseases and infections)
    • Cancer including lymphoma (a tumor of white blood cells) and leukaemia (cancer of the bone marrow).
  • Chlamydophila Felis

 Chlamydophilia Felis is a bacterial infection that mainly causes conjunctivitis in cats. It is spread through direct contact between cats, and much more commonly found in large groups of cats such as multi-cat households, breeding households and pet shelters. This infection can be successfully treated and clinical signs resolved with appropriate antibiotics. The vaccine is usually only recommended in high risk situations, such as catteries or breeding colonies with previous problems with this infection.

  • Bordetella bronchiseptica

Bordetella bronbchiseptica is a bacterial disease, that can cause upper respiratory disease in cats, and also rarely in humans! In cats common signs include sneezing, eye and nose discharge, coughing and a fever. It can be successfully treated with antibiotics if necessary. The vaccine may be recommended in some situations when there is a high risk of infection where cats are kept together in large groups such as rescue shelters or breeding households.

  • Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

FIP is a serious viral disease in cats. The virus spreads throughout the body and can cause a variety of different signs. It can cause an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (peritonitis) or chest cavity (pleural effusion), inflammation of the brain or eyes, or affect the liver, kidneys, skin or elsewhere in the body! FIP can be very difficult to diagnose and deal with, and once clinical signs start then it is usually incurable and fatal. The vaccine may be beneficial for breeding colonies with a history of FIP infection.

  • Rabies

Rabies is fatal viral disease, that is spread through bites or scratches from another infected animal. Do cats need rabies injection in Australia? – Thankfully Australia is classified as rabies-free. However, if you are considering to move or travel overseas with your kitty, then the rabies vaccine may be recommended or mandatory (depending on where you are travelling to).

Are cat vaccines safe?

All cat vaccinations are required to undergo rigorous tests to prove that they are safe and effective, before it can be licensed for use in pets by regulatory authorities in Australia. When cat vaccines are used as recommended in healthy cats, they are safe and help to prevent some very risky feline diseases.

Are there any possible side effects?

Just like vaccines or medical treatment in humans, there is a low risk of side effects following feline vaccination. After having a vaccine your kitty may have possible side effects including:

  • Mild reactions are most common, which includes a low grade fever, lethargy, decreased appetite, and slight swelling at the injection site. Usually the cat requires no treatment, and the signs pass within 1-2 days.
  • In very rare cases (1-10 cases in every 10,000 vaccines) cats can have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. In mild cases, which are much more common, the cat may develop hives, itchiness, swelling of the eyes and lips, and a mild fever. A more severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis is very rare, but may cause problems breathing, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea and collapse. Allergic reactions need immediate veterinary attention and may require treatment with an antihistamine, stereoscopic or adrenaline.
  • There is a link between cat vaccines and a cancer called feline injection site sarcoma. These tumours are rare, with an estimated occurrence in cats of 0.01% to 0.1%. However, because of the risk cats are often given their vaccines at specific locations that are recorded in their medical record.

Talk to your vet about the risks associated with vaccines. However, it is generally considered that the benefits of vaccination (protection against serious/life threatening diseases) are much greater than the potential risks or side effects of the vaccines.

When you shouldn’t vaccinate your cat?

Feline vaccine manufacturers state that only healthy cats should be vaccinated. If an unhealthy animal is vaccinated then the vaccine may fail, or the cat may be more likely to have a vaccination reaction. Most vets agree that certain cats SHOULD NOT be vaccinated including, cats who are undergoing:

  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • Surgery
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Stress (e.g. moving home)
  • if they are Sick or unhealthy
  • Pregnant or lactating cats

Your vet can help you to decide if your cat is healthy enough to be vaccinated.

sick cats - no cat shots

What do you need to do after the cat vaccination?

Thankfully, the majority of them will not show side effects after having a vaccine. There are a few things you can do to help your cat after his vaccination.

  • Keep your cat happy and calm
  • Continue with his normal routine
  • Don’t change his diet in the first week after the vaccine, they might show loss of appetite
  • Monitor him or her closely for any abnormal signs or changes in behaviour
  • Monitor the site of injection for any abnormal swellings or lumps
  • Go to your vet clinic if you think your cat is having any side effects from the vaccine

Conclusion

Vaccination plays an important part of a preventative healthcare routine for your kitten. Feline vaccines help to prevent some serious and life threatening diseases which your cat is at risk of catching. Your vet will help to decide which vaccines would be best for your kitten and how often they should be given, this depends on the age of your cat, where you live and your cat’s lifestyle. Regular health checks with your veterinarian are important to detect problems early, and keep your cat healthy throughout his life.

References

Australian Veterinary Association, A. V. (2018, Aug 06). Vaccination of dogs and cats: Policy. Retrieved Nov 24, 2019, from AVA: https://www.ava.com.au/policy-advocacy/policies/companion-animals-health/vaccination-of-dogs-and-cats/#ref_2

Day, M. J., Horzinek, M. C., Schultz, R.D., Squires, R. A. (2016). WSAVA Guidelines for the vaccination of dogs and cats. J Small Anim Pract 2016; 57:E1–45.

International Cat Care. (2018, 08 20). feline leukaemia virus. Retrieved 11 24, 2019, from International Cat Care: https://icatcare.org/advice/feline-leukaemia-virus-felv/

Stilwell, N. (2019). Adverse vaccine reactions in veterinary medicine: an update. Retrieved 11 24, 2019, from dvm360: http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/adverse-vaccine-reactions-veterinary-medicine-update