Cat Vaccines

In 2013, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) came out with Feline Vaccination Guidelines. Vaccines are in two categories: Core and Noncore. The core vaccines are ones that every cat should receive. The noncore vaccines are ones that are needed by certain cats under certain circumstances.  

Core Vaccines

These include Feline Panleukopenia Virus (commonly called distemper), Feline Rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus-1) and Feline Calicivirus (the last two are upper respiratory infections). Vaccination against them does not protect a cat from infection. However, cats that are vaccinated don’t get as sick as unvaccinated ones.  Rabies is a core vaccine in the United States as well. 

Non-Core Vaccines

These include Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Chlamydia, Bordetella, and FIP. Whether to give these depends on whether you have many cats in your house and whether your cat goes outside. Cats that are strictly indoors usually don’t need the noncore vaccines. 

Cancer from Vaccinations

In 1991, veterinary researchers discovered that some cats developed a malignant tumor at the area where the cat received an injection. The tumors are sarcomas. This cancer is very aggressive and surgery alone wasn’t curative at the time. This was because all vaccines were given in the scruff of the cat’s neck. However, modifications have been made to the way vaccines are manufactured and protocols have been developed  to decrease the risks associated with these tumors. Prior to the development of these guidelines, these tumors were found to be deadly if your cat was affected.  

A 2013 report said recent research does not indicate any specific vaccine is more likely to cause it. In fact, any injection can cause it.  A specific recombinant rabies vaccine may be less likely to cause sarcomas. Unfortunately, this vaccine must be given every year so your cat is getting more injections, which could, in turn, increase risk.   That said, however, if your veterinarian gives vaccines in the appropriate places, it’s likely that if your cat develops a tumor as the result of vaccination, your cat’s life will be saved.

1-year versus 3-year Vaccinations

The guidelines state that boosters for FVRCP and rabies should be given every 3 years. Even if a vaccine is labeled to be given annually, your vet is not legally required to do that. The exception is rabies vaccine; a vet must follow the label.   

Cat Vaccination Schedule

United States law requires rabies vaccinations be given by the age of 16 weeks, another a year later and then every 3 years after that (or in accordance with manufacturer instructions).

The FVRCP vaccine needs to be given to kittens with their moms beginning at 6 weeks old, while kittens without their moms should be started at 4 weeks old. The FVRCP vaccine needs to be boostered every 3-4 weeks after each vaccine until the kitten reaches 14 weeks. This means your kitten will need anywhere from 3 to 4 FVRCP boosters. FVRCP boosters should then be given every 3 years throughout adulthood.

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