Does Your Cat Really Need Feline Vaccines?


You should understand completely all of the benefits and risks of the procedures before deciding which of the vaccines your cat should receive. It is important that you are able to discuss vaccination with your veterinarian so they advise you about which vaccines are most appropriate. Tell your veterinarian about your cat’s environment, medical history, current medical problems, lifestyle, and medications your cat may be getting. Your veterinarian should be happy to answer any questions you may have and will help you make the right choices about your cat’s vaccines.

Does my cat need to be vaccinated?

Your cat’s immune system plays a vital role in maintaining their health. The immune system is complex and consists of specialized molecules and cells that work to protect your cat from disease and infection caused by bacteria, viruses, and other microbes and parasites.

Vaccines help your cat’s immune system fight off invasion by disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which act like the bad organism but don’t cause disease, ideally. The immune system mounts a protective response when a vaccine is given. If your cat is then exposed to the actual disease-causing organism, the immune system is better able to prevent infection or at least reduce the severity and duration of the disease.

Vaccines play an important part of controlling infectious diseases. Most vaccines do not provide total protection from disease and they do not provide the same degree of protection in all cats. You should make every effort to not let your cat be exposed to infected cats or contaminated environments.

Why do kittens require multiple vaccinations?

Kittens get antibodies from their mother’s milk in the first few hours after they are born. These antibodies protect the kitten from sickness until its own immune system is more mature.

Those maternal antibodies can interfere with a vaccine’s ability to stimulate it’s immune system. Veterinarians often give a series of vaccines, usually starting when the kitten is about six or eight weeks old to deal with this problem. Vaccinations are repeated at 3 or 4 week intervals until the maternal antibodies has gone away, which usually happens at about twelve weeks of age. In some cases, like for rabies vaccines, the initial shot is not given until the maternal antibody has completely disappeared.

Do I need to get my adult cat vaccinated every year?

It depends on the vaccine. Vaccination one time in three years is sufficient for certain rabies vaccines if they provide protection for longer than one year.

Research suggests that calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia vaccines provide good enough protection for several years, so many veterinarians are now recommending that this vaccine be boosted no more than once every three years.

Less is known about the duration of other vaccines. Until we know more about them, annual vaccinations with those vaccines is a good idea when they are needed.