Many cat owners assume that an indoor-only cat does not need to be vaccinated. However, even indoor-only cats may be exposed to diseases. Rabies, in particular, can be carried by other mammals, and is required by law in the State of Pennsylvania. Bats carrying rabies can get into your home through very tiny spaces, and if an unvaccinated animal is bitten, the rabies virus causes disease that is nearly always fatal.
For more detailed information on cat vaccinations, read Why Does My Cat Need To Be Vaccinated?
Here is a list of vaccinations and the ages at which we recommend your kitten receive them:
FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Parvovirus) | 8, 12, and 16 weeks (no more than 4 weeks apart) then annually
FeLV Feline Leukemia Virus) | can start at 8 weeks with one booster in 3-4 weeks and then annually
Rabies | Can be given between 12 and 16 weeks. Give a one-year booster after the initial vaccine, and then every year thereafter.
FVR is a herpes virus specific to cats (you can’t catch it from them). It is a major cause of serious, life-long respiratory illness as well as conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the tissues that surround the eye. The virus is very easily spread through saliva and discharge from the eyes and nose of an infected cat. An unvaccinated cat can acquire the virus from human hands, furniture, clothing, food and water dishes that are contaminated. Any time a cat who has FVR gets stressed or becomes ill with something else, the FVR virus may flare up throughout the cat’s life.
Calicivirus is highly contagious, spread through saliva, nasal secretions and airborne particles from sneezing cats. It is a major cause of cat upper respiratory infections and infected cats can develop painful mouth, lips and nose ulcers and swollen joints which cause painful limping. “Calici” can be especially painful for kittens, who also may develop high fever, swollen limbs, liver malfunction causing jaundice and even organ failure. One strain of the virus has a high fatality rate.
Feline “parvo” is often fatal to young kittens, and even older kittens and cats without strong supportive veterinary care are not likely to survive. This disease is not the same virus that causes parvo in puppies and dogs, and it cannot be transmitted to humans. It is spread through feline urine, feces and nasal secretions and is most common where cats are gathered together in groups. The virus can linger for up to a year in the environment, even in bedding, food dishes and furniture that have been disinfected, so it is vital to vaccinate kittens and cats again this disease. Symptoms may include loss of appetite and failure to drink, lethargy, vomiting, nasal discharge, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and high fever.
The feline leukemia virus can only affect cats and is not the same as the human blood cancer. It is largely spread through blood and saliva, such as when cats fight, and is confirmed through a blood test. Kittens may be born with it if the mother was infected. The virus does not live long outside the body. However, once acquired, most cats do not survive more than one to three years. Symptoms are varied, but may include swollen lymph nodes, pale or yellow gums, whites of eyes turning yellow, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea, lethargy, respiratory problems and diarrhea. Indoor/outdoor or outdoor cats are at much greater risk of contracting FeLV.
FIV is largely transmitted through bite wounds from another cat, making indoor/outdoor and outdoor cats most at risk. Although the virus may not be detached through clinical symptoms, a blood test will reveal its presence in a cat. Cats with FIV suffer from immune deficiency, so that normally harmless viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi in the environment may attack the weakened immune system and can cause severe illness. An FIV-positive cat may live an average lifespan, as long it is well cared for.