Cat parents understand the importance of getting their pets vaccinated, but knowing exactly which vaccinations are required at what age—and how they help keep our cats safe and healthy—can be difficult to keep track of. Use this guide to stay up to date on your cat’s vaccinations and learn why they’re so important.
Vaccinations cats and kittens need
Unless you’re a trained veterinarian, understanding how cats get sick can be tricky. Diseases are caused by pathogens or, as they are more commonly called, germs. These can include anything from a virus or bacteria to another microorganism that makes its way into your pet’s body and can cause them to become ill.
Vaccinations work by introducing a compromised—and therefore less potent or killed—form of a specific pathogen to stimulate your pet's immune system and cause it to develop antibodies specific to that pathogen. After the pet is vaccinated, the body will recognize that pathogen during future exposures and the immune system will be better prepared to fight that disease than they would be if they hadn't been vaccinated.. An overview of the most important vaccinations your cat needs—and what they protect against—include:
This vaccine helps prevent a myriad of deadly illnesses in cats, including rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (distemper).
Most states require pet parents to vaccinate their cats for rabies, a viral disease that causes inflammation of the brain and can be transferred through saliva from a pet to a human via broken skin, mucus membranes or, less commonly, through a scratch.
Cats who are exposed to other unvaccinated cats at home or in a boarding facility or those that roam outdoors are at higher risk of feline leukemia exposure since transmission occurs through exchange of blood, saliva and other bodily fluids with an infected host. The FelV vaccine can help ward off the disease.
Cats who are exposed to various outdoor environments or unvaccinated animals—in a kennel or daycare scenario, for example—are often required to get a bordetella (commonly referred to as kennel cough) vaccination.
Additional kitten health treatments
Besides vaccinations, there are a couple of other health treatments that are important to consider for a more well-rounded and holistic view of your cat’s overall health. Some additional health treatments that pet parents should be aware of and ask their veterinarians about include:
- Deworming: Worms are a common problem for cats. Cats more frequently suffer from roundworms and tapeworms that can damage their immune system. Fecal tests are one of the best and most accurate ways for your veterinarian to check your cat for intestinal parasites that, if left untreated, can cause serious illness, or even death.
- Flea & tick preventives: Fleas and ticks are fairly common parasites that can come inside your home by jumping on shoes, clothes and other pets, which means your cat is at risk even if they never go outside. Taking preventive measures can help keep pests away from your cat and prevent an uncomfortable infestation.