Cat Care – The Main Vaccinations Your Cat Needs

The vaccines that the Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (the AAFP Panel) classified as core vaccines are recommended for all cats. These are the vaccines against feline parvovirus (FPV), which causes feline panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper); against feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1), which causes feline rhinotracheitis; against feline calicivirus (FCV); and against rabies.

The vaccine against FPV is generally given together with a combination of vaccines against FHV-1 and FCV. There are both injectable and intranasal versions of these vaccines available, and both modified live virus (infectious) and killed virus (noninfectious) versions of the vaccines are available. The vaccine against rabies comes in only an injectable version, with recombinant and killed virus versions available. The rabies vaccine comes in 1-year and 3-year versions.

Kittens should be vaccinated with the FPV and FHV-1/FCV vaccines beginning as early as 6 weeks and every 3 to 4 weeks thereafter, until they reach 16 weeks of age, and all kittens should get at least one dose of the FPV vaccine via injection, according to the AAFP Panel. In addition, the Panel recommends that kittens receive one dose of the rabies vaccine, as early as 8 or 12 weeks (depending on the product label), with a second dose of the vaccine given one year later. Adolescent or adult cats with unknown vaccination histories should be given two doses of the FPV and FHV-1/FCV vaccines, three to four weeks apart, and two doses of the vaccine against rabies, 12 months apart, according to the Panel.

The booster schedule for the FPV and FHV-1/FCV vaccines is a single dose one year after administration of the last dose of the initial series, followed by a single dose given no more frequently than every three years. Many states and municipalities require cats be vaccinated against rabies, in which case, veterinarians must follow the regulations. Otherwise, annual vaccination with the one-year version or vaccination every three years with the three-year version is recommended.

The AAFP panel classified the vaccine against feline leukemia virus (FeLV) as a noncore vaccine but highly recommended vaccination against FeLV for all kittens (with the first dose given at 8 to 12 weeks and, depending on the product, a second dose three to four weeks later). The Panel did not recommend booster vaccination unless the cats were at risk of infection (basically outdoor cats and those cats living with cats that tested positive for FeLV. According to the panel, cats should be tested for the FeLV virus prior to inoculation and only FeLV negative cats be vaccinated.

The AAFP Panel classified vaccines against the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), chlamydophila felis, and bordetella bronchiseptica as noncore vaccines. The panel recommended vaccination against FIV only for cats that have a high risk of infection (mainly cats that live with FIV-positive cats) and that only cats testing FIV-negative be vaccinated. Vaccination against chlamydophila felis or against bordetella bronchiseptica was recommended only under specific circumstances.

Vaccines against the feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIP) and giardia spp were classified as not generally recommended vaccines.