Cat Vaccinations – Are You Over Vaccinating?

Due to recent updates to feline vaccination protocols by the Australian Veterinary Association and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, Vasse Vets has reviewed our feline vaccinations. This keeps our recommendations in line with the most current scientific research. We will still assess the risks factors for each cat and tailor the protocols to suit the individual animal, however below are our general recommendations.

Why vaccinate?

Vaccination of kittens and adult cats is important to prevent potentially fatal or serious diseases. Routine and regular vaccination by responsible pet owners is also important in providing herd immunity that helps keep the prevalence of serious feline diseases low. Kittens are temporarily protected by maternal antibodies received in their mother’s milk, however these wear off between 8-16 weeks of age. This is why kittens need to be vaccinated multiple times. After this, only an annual vaccination is required to boost the vaccine protection.  In older cats or cats that have reacted poorly to vaccinations in the past, testing the antibody titres in their blood yearly is an alternative to vaccination.

The core vaccination

Vasse Vets recommends all cats must receive the ‘core’ vaccines to protect them against serious infectious diseases which they are likely to become exposed to. In cats these core viruses are feline herpesvirus (FHV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline panleukopaenia virus (FPV). These viruses are combined in a vaccination known as an F3.

  • FHC and FCV cause respiratory disease commonly known as the collective disease ‘cat flu’. Signs include discharge from the eyes and nose, conjunctivitis, sneezing and coughing, oral ulceration, drooling, fever and unwillingness to eat. FHV and FCV are transmitted by eye, nose and mouth secretions. FCV can survive over a week in the environment. With both FHV and FCV, infected cats can become long term carriers of the virus- shedding the virus continuously or during times of stress and acting as a potential source of infection for other cats.
  • FPV is similar to canine parvovirus and causes haemorrhagic diarrhoea and severe illness. It is important to note that protection the respiratory components of the F3 vaccination (FHV and FCV) is only partial. In the face of a strong challenge, cats may become infected with the viruses and show clinical signs, however these are normally mild and resolve quickly.

The non-core vaccinations

Your veterinarian will assess your cats living situation to determine if they require any ‘non-core’ vaccinations. ‘Non-core’ vaccinations are defined as vaccinations “required by only those animals whose geographic location, local environment or lifestyle places them at risk of contracting specific infections” (AVA Vaccination Policy, 2016). Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Chlamydia felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica are considered the feline non-core vaccinations.  FIV and FeLV can be picked up on a blood test. It is recommended to test for these diseases prior to vaccination.

  • FeLV is a viral infection causing immunosuppression, anaemia and lymphoma in young cats. It is spread in saliva by close contact such as grooming and sharing food and water bowls.
  • FIV or ‘Feline aids’ is a virus that affects the immune system of mainly older cats and is spread through biting and cat fights. Affected cats suffer from chronic and recurrent infections, mouth ulcers, kidney disease and gastrointestinal issues. FIV is very common and over 20% of feral cats in Western Australia are affected. If cats are outside then they should be vaccinated for FIV, especially if they have a history of cat fights.
  • Chlamydia felis and Bordetella bronchiseptica are bacterial diseases that cause conjunctivitis and respiratory issues, typically in shelter or cattery environments. Treatment is with topical and systemic antibiotics. Vaccines can help prevent the disease in shelters or in situations where there is a high prevalence of the disease.

The standard vaccination protocol 

Vasse Vets can advise you as to which vaccinations are recommended based on your cats age, lifestyle and exposure. Low risk cats are inside only cats. Cats are at a higher risk if they frequently roam outside, have fights with other cats or are in shelter environments. This is because exposure to non-vaccinated and sick cats is more likely.


Vaccination side effects

There are minimal side effects seen with the F3 vaccination and most cats are simply quiet and off their food for 24 hours. There is a higher incidence of side effects in cats vaccinated with a vaccine containing Chlamodophila Felis. This generally manifests as a fever and inappetence in up to 30% of cats vaccinated and usually resolved in 24-48 hours. Some cats may require treatment with pain relief such as anti-inflammatories to help with their recovery. Other side effects include the possibility of an injection site sarcoma- a tumour brought on by an injection (either a vaccination or other injection). Thankfully this complication is rare.  The other rare but serious vaccine side effect is an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine itself. This is most common in the first 2-4 hours after the vaccination, which is usually why close monitoring of all animals for the first couple of hours after a vaccination is recommended.

If you have any further questions regarding cat vaccinations, our friendly team at Vasse Vets are here to help! Call us on (08) 9755 4455 for more information or to book your cat in for a health check and vaccination assessment.

Click here for information on dog vaccinations and keep the whole family protected!