All cats need vaccinations.
In fact, it’s a legal requirement for cat owners to have felines vaccinated against rabies except in cases of rare extenuating circumstances.
That being said, feline vaccines aren’t all cut-and-dried. There are a plethora of options out there when it comes to having your cat vaccinated…so should your cat have any special vaccines?
What are Feline Vaccines?
Vaccines help a cat’s body fight off the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines themselves are made of antigens – essentially disease impersonators – that teach your cat’s immune system how to recognize and fight off the disease should they ever come into contact with it.
It’s always a good idea to have your cat vaccinated when she is a kitten where possible. Talk to your vet about which vaccines are available at what stage in her development, and whether the vaccine requires more than one application.
Core Vaccines and Special Vaccines
Cat vaccines can be divided into core vaccines and special (non-core) vaccines. Let’s get detailed.
Core Vaccines: Considered by the American Association of Feline Practitioners to be vital to all cats. Includes the vaccines for rabies, for feline distemper (panleukopenia), for feline calici virus, and for rhinotracheitis (feline herpes virus type I).
Special Vaccines: Non-core vaccines that may be given to a cat based on lifestyle factors. A vet may suggest special vaccines such as Bordetella, Chlamydophila felis, feline immunodeficiency virus (feline HIV), or Feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
When Should My Cat Get Non-Core Vaccines?
Every vet has their own opinion about which cats need which non-core vaccines; administration of these vaccines is subjective and should be discussed thoroughly with your veterinarian.
Lifestyle factors are the primary indicators of whether or not a cat should be given non-core vaccines. Completely indoor cats, for example, are not at as high a risk of contracting cat-borne diseases (such as FeLV) as outdoor cats. Because it is so hard to predict the eventual lifestyle of a kitten, some vets recommend certain non-core vaccines for all kittens.
Other factors – age, weight, overall health – can also impact your cat’s readiness and ability to accept non-core vaccines. It’s also important to consider how common certain feline diseases are in your geographic area.
It’s important to note that there are very few risks associated with feline vaccines! Side effects typically range in scope from pain at the injection site to fever, but long-term problems such as immune diseases are very, very rare.