Vaccine Booster Time For Mambo
Every year all our cats living within Bradford Cat Watch Rescue & Sanctuary have their vaccination boosters.
There are a number of highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases which can affect your cat. There is no treatment for many of these diseases and kittens and cats who catch them often die. However, for many of these conditions there is a simple protection in the form of vaccination. Ensuring that your cat completes an initial course of vaccinations and then receives regular booster jabs is important if you want to keep your cat fit and healthy.
Most vaccines are given by injection under the skin although some may be given as a spray up your cat’s nose. They all work by training the white blood cells in your cat’s body how to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular bug if your cat is in contact with it again.
Current vaccines fall into two main categories:
- ‘live vaccines’ which contain a strain of the bug which has been altered so that it cannot cause disease but does stimulate immunity
- ‘dead vaccines’ in which the bug has been killed by heat or chemicals.
Each type has their pros and cons – live vaccines generally give better and longer-lasting protection but they can sometimes cause more side effects. Live vaccines are not recommended for certain groups of cats, such as pregnant females.
There are many vaccinations available for cats but not all cats need all the vaccinations every year. Nowadays, vaccines are classed as either “core” or “non-core”. In general, “core” vaccines are considered those that should be given routinely to most cats because of the highly infectious, widespread distribution and potential severity of the disease. “Non-core” vaccines are considered those for diseases against which, not every animal needs to be protected. The decision to use a “non-core” vaccine should be based on assessment of individual lifestyle and risk.
Lifestyle influencers are key to the risks of infectious disease and useful questions to consider include:
- What is the age and background of your cat?
- Where and how does he/she live?
- Are there any other pets in the home?
- Does your cat live in an urban or rural area?
- Will your cat stay in a boarding cattery or attend cat shows?
- Does your cat live in a multicat household?
- Is your cat a ‘stay at home’ cat or a gregarious, outdoor social type?
These questions may have a direct relevance to determining the appropriate vaccination programme for your cat.
Almost regardless of the individual lifestyle of a cat, UK vets recommend vaccination against herpesvirus, calicivirus and panleucopenia – these are generally seen as “core” vaccines. The vast majority of UK cats spend some time outside and are therefore at risk of catching feline leukaemia. As a result, many UK experts regard leukaemia (FeLV) vaccination as “core”, and it is certainly recommended. However, there are a number of cats that never go outdoors and so can never encounter other cats that carry the leukaemia virus. If your cat is an indoor cat discuss the vaccination issue with your vet.
Kittens are protected against many infectious diseases through compounds called antibodies, which they receive in the first few hours from their mother’s milk (colostrum). Early vaccination is pointless because these antibodies prevent vaccines working properly. However, by about seven weeks the immunity provided by the mother begins to wear off. Some kittens do not have good protection from their mother and these may benefit from earlier vaccination.
For most of the above diseases, kittens should be given their first vaccination at about 8-9 weeks of age and then given a second vaccination at about twelve weeks. Until your kitten has received all its injections and for a few days after, it should not mix with other cats unless you can be certain that they are free of disease.
The quality of vaccines available today is very high but occasionally an individual cat may not get the full protection from the vaccine. This may be because the cat was already ill or was stressed when it was vaccinated and it’s immune system wasn’t working properly. Your vet will examine your cat before vaccination and if any signs of illness are detected will delay vaccination until your cat is well again.