Cat Vaccinations were once made from viruses (non-diseases causing), now they include parts of the virus including the viral coats. Some vaccinations may cause a slight reaction; if you have ever taken the flu or tetanus shot you usually get minor reactions resemble the actual disease. Vaccinations are mainly for viral causing diseases, not bacterial infections. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics. When a vaccine is administered to a cat, it challenges the cat’s immune system to make multiple white blood cells, particular called “T-cells” that can neutralize the pathogen represented by the vaccine. These T-cells develop a memory for the pathogen and are maintained on reserve. They are called “memory cells”. When your cat gets exposed to that particular pathogen, the T-memory cells become ready for an attack against the invaders. To maintain an effective level of memory cells, vaccinations (boosters) are usually given every 1-3 years, depending on the type.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel recommends the cat vaccinations of all cats for rabies, feline distemper, feline herpes virus, and feline calcivirus. The last three are administered in a three-in-one vaccine, so the cat will only be stuck with one needle. Other cat vaccinations may be recommended such as the feline leukemia if the cat has a heightened risk of becoming infected with the disease.
Kittens receive passive immunity from the mother cat during nursing. This precious elixir is called colostrum. Kittens receive antibodies in this first milk from the mother cat. How long this natural immunity remains in the kitten depends on the level of antibodies present in the mother cat when the kittens are born. This immunity usually last from 12 to 16 weeks, but may start declining as early as six weeks.
Kittens are highly susceptible to infectious diseases, for this reasons it is important to get kittens vaccinated as early as six to eight weeks. If the mothers antibodies are still present in the kittens when they receive their first shots the natural antibodies may cause the vaccinations to become ineffective. It is for this reason that the kittens get a second round of vaccinations at 12 weeks. If you purchased your kitten from a breeder or shelter, than your kitten should have already had the first round of injections. If you acquired your kitten by any other means like many of us do, take your kitten to the veterinarian as soon as possible for vaccinations. If you have a new kitten you will need to take her to the veterinarian a few times in the beginning, afterwards only annual visits are needed.