How do vaccines work?
Vaccines contain small quantities of altered or "killed" viruses, bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. When administered, they stimulate your cat's immune system to produce disease-fighting cells and proteins - or antibodies - to protect against disease.
When should my cat be vaccinated?
Generally, the immunity that a kitten has at birth begins to diminish after 9 weeks. This is the time to begin the initial vaccinations, with the booster following 3 to 4 weeks later. Thereafter, your cat will require repeat vaccinations for the rest of his or her life. Of course, these are only guidelines - your vet will be able to determine the exact schedule that's right for your pet.
Which vaccinations should my cat receive?
We believe that your pet should be protected against those diseases which are most common, highly contagious and which cause serious illness. Such diseases include Feline Panleukopenia, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Feline Calicivirus and Feline Leukaemia. Other vaccinations may be recommended, based on your vet's evaluation of the risks posed by such factors as your cat's lifestyle.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis
Just as with the human common cold, the virus that causes this upper respiratory-tract infection is easily transmitted from one cat to another, so vaccination is imperative if your pet will come in contact with other cats. Its symptoms may take the form of moderate fever, loss of appetite, sneezing, eye and nasal discharges and coughing. Kittens are particularly affected, but this disease can be dangerous in any unprotected cat, as effective treatment is limited. Even if a cat recovers, it can remain a carrier for life.
This virus is another major cause of upper respiratory-tract infection in cats. Widespread and highly contagious, its symptoms of fever, ulcers and blisters on the tongue and pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) can range from mild to severe, depending on the strain of virus present. Once again, treatment of this disease can be difficult. Even if recovery does take place, a recovered cat can continue to infect other animals, as well as experience chronic sneezing, runny eyes, and severe gum disease. Vaccination is therefore tremendously important.
Sometimes known as feline distemper, this disease is caused by a virus so resistant, it can survive over one year outside a cat's body! Therefore, as most cats will be exposed to it during their lifetimes and infection rates in unprotected cats can run as high as 90-100%, vaccination against this usually fatal disease is absolutely essential. Symptoms can include listlessness, diarrhoea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever. Happily, the vaccine itself is very effective in preventing the disease, as treatment is very difficult and, even if recovery takes place for a period of time, a once-infected cat can spread the disease to other, unvaccinated animals.
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Infection with the Feline Leukaemia Virus can result in a multitude of serious health problems for your cat - everything from cancerous conditions such as lymphoma to a wide range of secondary infections caused by the destruction of the immune system. After initial exposure to the virus, a cat may show no symptoms of its presence for months, if not years, yet all the while infect others. Testing is available to determine the FeLV status of your cat. If he or she has not yet been infected, but is likely to come in contact with cats that are, vaccination against this fatal disease is highly recommended.
After evaluating your cat's particular situation and risk factors, your vet may also recommend vaccination against other infectious diseases, like Rabies. But that determination is made based on your cat's life style and potential of coming into contact with these rarer diseases.
How effective is vaccination?
Like any drug treatment or surgical procedure, vaccinations cannot be 100% guaranteed. However, used in conjunction with proper nutrition and acceptable sanitary conditions, vaccination is clearly your pet's best defence against disease. Plus, when you consider what treating a serious illness can cost you and your beloved cat in terms of both money and distress, prevention through vaccination is extremely cost-effective.