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Your veterinarian will let you know what cat vaccines are due and what type your cat needs. Kittens will require vaccinations that may not be recommended for adult cats.
Kittens require a series of FVRCP cat vaccinations. These cat vaccines usually start between 6 and 8 weeks of age and need a booster every 3-4 weeks until they reach 16 weeks of age. At that time the kitten is old enough for a rabies vaccination and the immunizations are then recommended annually. Kittens receive a series of boosters because while they are nursing they receive immunity from the mother cat. As the kittens become weaned, their immunity begins to decrease.
Adult Cats are not as susceptible to feline distemper so some veterinarians recommend these cat vaccines every other year. Your adult cat should still see its vet every year for annual checkups. As your cat ages and becomes more senior other life threatening illnesses begin to increase such as kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer. Your senior cat may also have problems with their teeth so have your vet to also check this during annual checkups.
These cat vaccines are given as one combo vaccination that covers numerous diseases with one injection. The letters stand for:
• FVR = Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis: This a nasty upper respiratory infection that is airborne and highly contagious among cats. It causes sneezing and coughing with discharge from the eyes and nose, infected cats will also have loss of appetite and a fever. Young kittens and senior cats are more susceptible to this infection and many require hospitalization to recover.
• C = Calicivirus: This is another upper respiratory infection with symptoms similar to feline viral rhinotracheitis. These infections account for 95% of upper respiratory infections in cats. The disease is spread through direct contact with an infected cat or objects, for example a food dish or toy.
• P = Panleukopenia: This is also known as feline distemper. It is highly contagious and deadly among cats. It is similar to the parvovirus seen in dogs. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, weakness, dehydration, tremors, and loss of coordination. A low white blood cell count is also common. Cats with feline distemper need to be hospitalized and have intensive care. Mortality rate is high. These cat vaccines have worked wonders in preventing this and other highly contagious diseases.
Feline Leukemia: This is a virus that is highly contagious among cats. It is spread through the saliva, urine, tears, and milk. Most cats contract the virus through fighting or as a nursing kitten. Exposed cats may carry the disease for years (not showing symptoms) while spreading the disease to other cats. The virus suppresses the immune system, causes severe anemia, and cancer. Symptoms include but are not limited to: fever, anorexia, weight loss, and anemia. All cats should be tested and all cats that live outdoors, or could potentially be exposed to a cat that goes outside, vaccinated. There is no cure for Feline Leukemia, the symptoms can be treated and supportive care given, but the cat will continue to carry the virus. If your cat tests positive for Feline Leukemia but seems otherwise healthy it can continue to live a long life. A positive cat should live as an indoor only cat so as not to spread the disease to other cats.
Feline AIDS: Just as the name implies, Feline AIDS is the cat version of human AIDS. This is a immunodeficiency virus, it suppresses the immune system. This virus only effects cats, if your cat is diagnosed with Feline AIDS or FIV, you will not get the human form of AIDS from your cat. Fighting and bite wounds are the most common way the disease is spread among cats. Symptoms include but are not limited to: chronic infections or bouts of illness, anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, pale mucous membranes, and chronic fever. Your veterinarian can test for the virus. There is a vaccination, however, once your cat has been vaccinated against FIV it will test positive for the virus in the future, for this reason some veterinarians do not recommend these cat vaccines. If your cat tests positive for FIV it can continue to live a long life. It is recommended that FIV positive cats live indoors only and be isolated from other cats in the household.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP): This virus is highly contagious and is spread through the urine, feces, and saliva. There are two forms of FIP, the wet form and the dry form. If your cat has the wet form you may notice an enlarged abdomen due to fluid build up. Other symptoms include: anorexia, depression, weight loss, and dehydration. The dry form has similar symptoms along with lesions on the eyes. FIP can be hard to diagnose and cats who contract this virus rarely survive.
Rabies: Though rabies is not as common as it once was, this vaccination is still the most common of all cat vaccines given to felines. Rabies is a virus that affects the nervous system and is always fatal. There is no known cure for rabies, to confirm a case the brain tissue must be examined. Many wild animals carry rabies, most commonly raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. However, stray dogs and cats can also be carriers. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and farm animals can easily pick up rabies from wild or stray animals.
Symptoms generally include behavior change, difficulty swallowing, hypersalivation, depression - stupor, and hind limp paralysis.
The disease is spread through the saliva of infected animals and can be transmitted through a bite or an open wound. Vaccinated pets who are exposed to rabies should be re-vaccinated and observed for 90 days, un-vaccinated pets exposed to rabies should be euthanized or kept isolated for 6 months. Keep all pets current on their rabies vaccinations - this will protect humans and animals.
Regardless of the form of rabies, the end result is paralysis, coma, and death. Rabies cases take two forms:
• “Dumb Rabies” cases exhibit signs of the animal becoming shy or unusually approachable. These animals may be sluggish, confused, and depressed.
• “Furious Rabies” cases are very irritable and may be aggressive. At times it may seem confused and calm, then suddenly attack when approached. It may lose all caution for natural enemies.