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Getting the Right Kitten Vaccinations

How to Find Which Vaccines Your Kitten Will Need

By Lauren Leonardi . December 12, 2012 | See Comments

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Getting the Right Kitten Vaccinations

All cats will need vaccinations, and they can be given starting when your feline buddy is a kitten. Here's what you need to know about the vaccines your kitten will need.

Most veterinarians agree that vaccinations for your kitten, and later for your adult cat, are an important safeguard for your pet’s health. After all, cats are subject to a number of diseases with serious health consequences, many of which can be easily controlled with vaccines.

One important thing to note is that there are some risks associated with vaccinations, most of which are minor, but a few of which can be more serious. Here's what you need to know about kitten vaccinations.

What is a Vaccination?

Kittens receive immunity from a number of diseases through their mother’s milk. However, at about 6 or 8 weeks of age, this immunity begins to weaken, putting the kitten at risk. It is at this point that vaccination should begin.  Vaccines contain antigens, which to your kitten’s immune system look like disease-causing pathogens. In response, the kitten’s immune system is stimulated to produce antibodies to these diseases. Then, if and when the kitten is exposed to the actual pathogens, they are already prepared to deal with them, preventing or reducing the impact of the disease.

Which Vaccines Should Your Kitten Get?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has established that there are a series of core vaccines that every kitten and adult cat should receive. These recommendations for core vaccines are based on the severity of each disease, and the risk of exposure.In addition, there are several non-core vaccines that your kitten may need depending on their lifestyle, age and health, the risk of exposure to disease, and your geographical location. Your vet will advise you as to which non-core vaccines your kitten should receive.

Core vaccines include those that prevent feline distemper, feline calici virus, feline herpes type 1, and rabies. Rabies vaccinations for cats are required by law in many communities in the United States.Non-core vaccines for cats consis of those for feline leukemia, Bordetella, feline immmunodeficiency, and feline chlamydia.

The AAFP states that all kittens should receive these shots in their first year of life. They add that cats who are permitted to roam outdoors should continue to receive these vaccinations all throughout their lives. Adult cats who remain indoors only should be fine with receiving the kitten-aged non-core vaccines just the once. The group also recommends against vaccination for feline chlamydia, except for cats at high risk of exposure.If your kitten comes from a shelter, you might test their blood for feline leukemia before you vaccinate, especially if you will be introducing the kitten to other cats in the household who have not had this vaccine.Some veterinarians may opt to administer fewer vaccines for cats who will remain indoors. Or, they may choose to wait longer between re-administering updates. Discuss your options with your veterinarian.

When Should Your Kitten be Vaccinated?

Kittens begin to lose immunities provided by their mother’s milk at about 6 to 8 weeks of age, and it is then that vaccinations should begin. Your kitten will typically receive two booster vaccinations at 3 to 4 week intervals following the initial shots.Adult cats are usually on either a 1- or 3-year schedule for booster vaccination depending on the type of vaccine used.

What Are the Risks Involved with Vaccination?

Vaccinations are by and large a safe and effective means of preventing disease in your kitten and ensuring a long and healthy life. Most kittens will have few to no side effects from vaccines, and when they do these effects are usually mild. However, some cats may experience complications.The most common side effects of vaccination is swelling or tenderness around the site of the shot. Your kitten may lick or scratch at this area. Kittens may also experience fever after getting shots, which may result in general listlessness, a falling off in activity, and loss of appetite.More serious side effects can include vomiting and diarrhea, both of which can be cause for concern because of the potential for dehydration of your kitten. Lameness in your pet’s limbs can also occur after vaccination.Should your kitten exhibit any of these symptoms, you should contact your vet as soon as possible.

Use a vet finder to find the right veterinarian for your pet.
More on Kitten Health

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Gastritis, or Upset Stomach, in Dogs and Cats
Ear Mites in Cats and Dogs

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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KITTEN VACCINATIONS at a glance

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  • 1Vaccines help to protect the immune systems of kittens after they’re taken off mother’s milk.
  • 2There are core vaccines that are recommended for all cats.
  • 3Indoor cats may not need some of the non-core vaccinations recommended for outdoor cats.
  • 4Be on the lookout for side effects from vaccination that may indicate an adverse reaction.