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When Do Kittens Need Their First Shots

Kitten Vaccination Schedule: A Guide For New Cat Owners

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Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM.

Congratulations on your new kitten! All of the snuggles, playtime, and endless joys of having a feline friend in your life are finally here.

As you cross off items on your new kitten checklist, one of the most important things you can do for your new family member is to take them to the veterinarian for their kitten examinations and vaccinations.

Vaccinations are essential for protecting your kitten from certain illnesses and preventing the spread of disease. In this article, well walk you through kitten vaccine basics, tell you what to expect at your first check-up, and give you a sample cat vaccination schedule to follow.

Why Do Indoor Cats Need Vaccinations

If your cat lives exclusively indoors, they will still need to be vaccinated against cat flu and panleukopenia, but may not need the FeLV vaccine. This is because FeLV only usually spreads between cats in close and regular contact, but cat flu and panleukopaenia are very infectious and can spread on clothes, shoes, and other surfaces. If you have an indoor cat, discuss their vaccinations with your vet to find the best schedule for them.

What About Adverse Events

No injection or medication is without some degree of risk, but we continue to vaccinate because, in most cases, it is much smaller than the risk of the disease itself.

The overall incidence of adverse reactions in cats is reported to be about half of 1 percent and usually mild and self-limiting. Common side effects include lethargy, transient fever and local inflammation.

Anaphylaxis and death are, fortunately, extremely rare: about one in every 10,000 vaccines.

A vaccine-associated sarcoma is a slow-growing but locally aggressive cancerous mass that develops at vaccine injection sites. Sarcomas occur with about the same rare frequency as anaphylactic reactions.

For cats without a history of vaccine reactions, the risk of sarcomas is usually outweighed by the benefit of the core vaccines.

Pet owners can minimize the impact of sarcomas by monitoring injection sites for swelling after vaccinations. Swellings should be biopsied if they are larger than 2 centimeters, persist longer than three months, or grow one month past the date of vaccination. When sarcomas are addressed early, surgery is often curative.

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Vaccination Schedule For Kittens

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Your new kitten deserves the best start in life. This means providing everything she needs to grow and stay healthy. Vaccines are an important part of your kitten’s health care plan. Basic immunizations are essential to prevent your kitten from getting sick and avoid the spread of disease.

Will My Kitten Be Required To Have A Booster Injection

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A booster injection should be given against cat flu, feline panleukopenia and feline leukaemia between 12 and 16 weeks.

Once your kitten is a year old, your vet should also administer the annual boosters for the same viruses.

Read about kitten boosters to understand which injections your kitten will be required to have, and when.

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What Diseases Do Vaccinations Protect My Kitten Against

There are many diseases out there which could make your kitten severely ill, but vaccinations will protect them from most of these. Depending on their lifestyle, they may not need every jab but you should always consult your vet for the best advice on what they need.

  • Feline parvovirus FPV, also known as feline panleukopenia, is often fatal in kittens. The disease attacks the gut and immune system causing diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Cat Flu – There are two viruses which cause cat fluFeline Herpes Virus and Feline Calicivirus . Just as human flu can make you feel pretty bad, cat flu can lay your pet low for a while. However, cats can become lifelong carriers of the disease, suffering regular flare ups. Its particularly dangerous, and sometimes fatal, for kittens.
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus FeLV, which attacks the immune system and causes cancers, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhoea. FeLV damages the immune system, meaning theyll require lifelong specialist care to keep them cancer free for as long as possible.
  • Rabies Rabies is a virus which is fatal to both animals and humans, attacking the brain and nerve cells. The UK has been rabies-free since the early 20th Century but its still prevalent in other parts of the world so your kitten will need a vaccination if you intend to travel abroad with them.

When Should My Kitten Start Receiving Vaccinations

Over the years, vaccinations have saved the lives of millions of animals, including countless kittens and cats.

They work by introducing a little of an imitation disease into your pet’s body and while it won’t cause her harm, it will trigger an autoimmune response that causes her body to make antibodies to fight it. Vaccines have proven to be extremely effective when administered correctly. However, they must be given on a strict schedule as each is only effective for a period of time before its ability to cause an autoimmune response decreases. When this happens, your pet in this case your adorable new kitten could be at risk of catching serious and even deadly diseases.

It is essential that your feline furbaby starts to receive protection against the many infectious diseases that could threaten her health from an early age. This is because her immune system is still developing at this puts her at greater risk of contracting any illnesses or diseases that are around her. However, because she is still not yet fully grown, it isn’t possible for her to receive a full dose of the vaccine immediately. Instead, it must be given over the course of a number of months in a series of shots.

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Is My Kitten Protected After Their First Round Of Shots

Until they have received all of their vaccinations , your kitten will not be fully vaccinated. Once all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.

If youd like to allow your kitten outdoors before they have been vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas, like your own backyard.

What To Expect At A Vaccine Appointment

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  • Your vet will give your cat a full health check to make sure they are fit to have their vaccination if they are concerned about anything, they may delay it until they are better.
  • The vaccine will be an injection under the skin. You might be asked to hold your cat while its given let your vet know if you dont feel comfortable doing this.
  • The vaccine is unlikely to be painful, but it might feel cold or sting a bit every cat reacts slightly differently.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your cat, the vaccination appointment is a good opportunity to discuss them for example, if you think they might be gaining weight, need a worming tablet, or youre having trouble with dental care.

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Cost Of Kitten Vaccines

Each vaccine costs roughly $25 to $50 depending on the manufacturer and where you live. Your kitten will also usually need a physical examination to make sure that they are healthy enough to get vaccines.

The initial examination is usually with the veterinarian, and follow-up exams are either with the vet or a certified technician. The cost for the initial exam can range from $40-$60 on average. The follow-up visit cost might be lower with a technician.

Does My Kitten Need Only Core Vaccines

Cats that go outside, live in multi-cat households where other cats go outside, or cats that go to boarding kennels should receive the feline leukemia vaccine. Feline leukemia is spread by any bodily secretion , so direct contact with other infected cats is not necessary to transmit disease. There is no cure if a cat becomes infected and cannot clear the virus. The virus suppresses the immune system and predisposes cats to lymphoma, and deadly infections. It is recommended that all kittens receive the feline leukemia vaccine the first year of life, as many kittens that were initially going to be indoor only, start going outside. The feline leukemia vaccine is given at 12 and 16 weeks of age.

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Kitten Vaccines Or Primary Course

  • If your cat/kitten has never had a vaccine before, they will need *two injections 3-4 weeks apart this is usually at 9 and 12 weeks old.
  • They will be fully protected 3-4 weeks after their final injection.
  • Protection lasts 1 year, after which theyll need a booster.

*Some kittens need a third injection at 15 weeks.

When Should I Schedule Kitten Vaccinations And Cat Vaccinations

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You should schedule your kitten vaccinations as soon as you get your new kitten. Regardless of the age, your new kitten should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is important to get a preventive health care plan in place including vaccinations, deworming and flea control. In addition, we will spend time discussing behavioral training to make sure your kitten develops good behaviors and becomes a great pet.

Plan on spending at least thirty minutes at your first visit. This is a great time to get all your questions answered on kitten care and discuss the recommended preventive program with our veterinary team.

An adult cat vaccination schedule, which includes periodic booster immunizations, will be scheduled one year after the kitten vaccination schedule has been completed.

As with any other immunization protocol, a cat vaccination schedule should be adhered to without deviation, in order to ensure your cat remains healthy and well for the duration of his or her life. We cannot control all health issues but we can prevent the majority of infectious disease with the proper vaccine schedule.

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Are Kitten Vaccinations And Cat Vaccinations Necessary

The answer is yes. A kitten or cat owner is responsible for the wellbeing of their feline friend – this includes happiness and longevity of life. Cat vaccinations are integral component in the longevity equation. Kitten vaccinations and cat vaccinations are medically and scientifically proven to prevent various insidious diseases.

What Should I Feed My Kitten

Proper nutrition is essential for growth, so it is important to choose the right food when your kitten is weaned. Cats are obligate carnivores and require meat protein in their diet. This protein should be of high quality, so choose a name-brand food specifically formulated for kittens that is made by a reputable cat food company. Growing cats have different nutritional requirements than adult cats, so kitten food should be fed until your kitten reaches twelve months of age.

“Cats are obligate carnivores and require meat protein in their diet.”

Buy food that has been certified by a recognized organization as complete and balanced. This means that the food is nutritionally complete to meet the needs of growth and development. In the United States, you should look for food that has been certified by AAFCO, an independent organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. In Canada, look for foods approved by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association , or foods that are labeled as having been tested by feeding trials. Your veterinarian can provide you with specific dietary recommendations that will help your kitten develop into a healthy adult cat.

Cat foods are available in dry, canned, and semi-moist formulations that should all bear a label stating that the food is intended for kittens. Each of the types of food has advantages and disadvantages.

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How Often Do Cats Need Vaccines

Your kitten will actually need a few doses of these vaccines until hes about 4 or 5 months old.

They should then get vaccinated every three to four weeks with the core vaccines of FCV, FHV and FPV until 16 to 20 weeks of age, Dr. Eldredge said. FeLV is given at 8 weeks and then one more about four weeks later.

Titer Testing For Cats

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A titer is a test that is done using a sample of your cats blood to measure the level of antibodies to a specific disease. Antibodies are proteins made by the body as a response to antigens. Antigens are foreign substances or stimuli to the body, such as viruses, bacteria, or vaccinations, that cause the body to mount an immune response.

Vaccine titers are used as a screening tool to determine whether or not to revaccinate for a particular disease. If a vaccine titer comes back high, this indicates that your cat, if exposed to that disease, should be able to fight it off.

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Why Are Vaccines Important

Vaccines protect your kitten from diseases by exposing his immune system to antigens that help your kitten develop antibodies to fight the disease if he is ever is exposed to it. Immunizations reduce the severity of a disease or even prevent it completely. The necessity of vaccinations is determined by your cat’s age and lifestyle inform your vet so your kitten receives the right vaccines. According to the ASPCA, vets recommend that all healthy felines receive core vaccinations.

When Do I Need To Vaccinate My Kitten

Your kitten will have some natural immunity acquired through its mothers milk when they were just hours old, but this starts to wane as they grow. Vaccinating at the right times is essential to keeping them healthy – too early and their mothers antibodies will interfere with the vaccine, but too late and the risk of falling ill if theyre exposed to a disease increases.

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Getting Your Kitten Vaccinated

We recommended bringing your kitten in for their first round of vaccinations when they are between six and eight weeks old. Below is a series of vaccinations your kitten should given in three to four week intervals .

First visit

  • Fecal exam for parasites
  • Blood test for feline leukemia
  • Review nutrition and grooming
  • Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia

Second visit

  • Examination and external check for parasites
  • Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia

Third visit

  • Second feline leukemia vaccine

What Diseases Should Cats Be Vaccinated Against

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The core vaccines for cats in the UK protect against:

  • feline enteritis: Feline infectious enteritis is a disease caused when cats become infected with feline parvovirus . It spreads easily in unhygienic conditions and is sadly often fatal, with unvaccinated kittens being most at risk. Not all infected cats show symptoms, but those that do may vomit, become unable to eat or drink, and have watery diarrhoea.
  • feline influenza, or cat flu: Cat flu is like a human flu it can cause a runny nose and eyes, and a sore throat. Other symptoms include aches and pains in the muscles and joints, mouth ulcers, dribbling, sneezing, loss of voice and fever. Cat flu is not usually serious in adult cats, although they can be quite ill. However it can be serious, even fatal, in kittens, and in adult cats with other serious underlying illnesses. Read more about cat flu here.
  • If your cat goes outside, or lives with cats who go outside, we recommend vaccinating them against feline leukaemia virus: Feline leukaemia virus is an incurable viral infection that eventually produces fatal illness in cats which become permanently infected. It is estimated that one to two per cent of cats in Britain are permanently infected, and the majority die within four years of FeLV detection. Read more advice about FeLV here.

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Are There Risks Associated With Cat Vaccinations

Cat vaccinations stimulate your kitten or cat’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This can cause mild symptoms to occur ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions. Cat vaccinations can cause other risks like injection site tumors and immune disease, however such incidences are extremely rare and are usually linked to pre-existing genetic and medical conditions. Because of the potential for injection site reactions, we give each vaccine in a specific location that is noted in the cat’s medical record.

The fact is, the rewards of cat vaccinations far outweigh any risks. Cat vaccines have saved countless lives and play a vital role in the battle against feline infectious disease. As with any medical procedure, there is a small chance of negative side effects. In most cases, the risks are much smaller than the risks of disease itself.

Kitten Vaccination Schedule And Costs

Kittens are most susceptible to infectious diseases when they are under 6 months of age. Thats why its so important to give your kitten the protection they need with the right vaccinations.

Mother cats pass maternal antibodies through their milk during nursing. These antibodies do offer some degree of protection against diseases, but they also interfere with, or even inactivate, the bodys response to vaccination.

For this reason, core kitten vaccinations start at 6-8 weeks of age and are boosted every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 16-20 weeks old. Core vaccines should be boosted one year after the initial series.

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Types Of Vaccination Your Kitten Will Receive

Vaccinations are usually divided into two categories. These are ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ vaccines. Core vaccines are given to all kittens regardless of their breed and where they live. Non-core vaccines are only given on the recommendation of your vet and these will be based on whether your kitten goes roaming outdoors, where you live and her general health.


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