Pet Pointers: New kitten? It will need vaccination

by Symptom Advice on November 24, 2011

Q: We just got a new kitten and the rescue gave it some vaccines but it still needs more. What vaccines do cats need and what are they for? are the diseases they protect against really contagious? It gets so confusing so fast!

a: there are three main vaccines that your kitten will need: FVRCP, FelV and rabies.

  • the FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis Calicivirus Panleukopenia) is a three-in-one effective, safe vaccine against common contagious diseases in cats:

    • Rhinotracheitis comes from a herpes virus that can cause severe reactions in kittens and elderly cats. the virus is airborne and highly contagious, and the disease can be debilitating due to permanent respiratory problems and eye damage.

    • various strains of the Calicivirus can result in a minimal reaction to a life- threatening condition. most cases present with nasal or eye discharge, loss of appetite, fever and lethargy. the disease is transmitted through direct contact from kitty to kitty. An infected cat can spread the virus into the environment for up to one year.

    • Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper and Infectious Feline Enteritis) is a deadly contagious disease that can remain in the environment for up to one year and has a 90 percent mortality rate among kittens.

  • the FVRCP vaccine should be given to all kittens at eight weeks then repeated every four weeks until they are 16 weeks of age. FVRCP needs to be repeated at one year, then boostered every one to three years.

  • FeLV or Feline Leukemia virus is a disease that depresses a cat’s immune system and interferes with its ability to fight off other infectious diseases. the virus can spread through shared litter boxes and water bowls, from a cat fight or other outside environmental interaction.

    If you have adopted a new cat with no known vaccine history it should be tested for FeLV. the vaccine can be given as early as eight weeks and should be boostered three to four weeks later. the vaccine lasts for one year and should be repeated annually. Some cats experience vaccine side effects, such as mild flu-like symptoms, a few days after the administering the vaccine.

    Rabies is a virus that is widespread in the U.S. and is spread through saliva, most commonly through bite wounds, and takes two to six weeks to manifest. the feline rabies vaccine is given at 16 weeks to kittens and is repeated annually. If your cat ventures outdoors, the rabies vaccine is the most effective way to prevent you cat from getting the disease, as well as maintaining the low rate of exposure within the U.S.

    All of these vaccines are safe and effective. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines your little one still needs to protect it.

    Alia Kroos is a veterinary technician at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos. Visit for more information.

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