Vaccine Schedule: Cats

Vaccine Schedule: Cats

To stay healthy, your cat requires regular vaccination.  Use this schedule to learn more about how vaccines work, what kind of vaccines are best for your cat, when your cat should be vaccinated, and how often.


Immunity: A Body’s Memory of Past Infections


Your pet has an immune system designed to seek out germs and eliminate them from the body.  Once the immune system successfully destroys an invading germ, it creates antibodies that remember what the germ ‘looks like’.  This antibody memory is called immunity and means that the immune system can identify and kill the germ more quickly and effectively if it ever infects the pet again.


How Do Vaccines Work?


Vaccines work by tricking the body into believing it is infected with a germ.  You can explore this topic more extensively on the AAHA website, but for now, here is a brief description of each.


Attenuated Vaccines:  These vaccines contain a weakened version of the germ that’s too feeble to cause illness, but strong enough to cause an immune response.


Inactivated or Killed Virus Vaccines:   As the name implies, these vaccines contain a killed version of the germ.  They also contain an adjuvant, a chemical added to keep the killed germ intact longer in the body and to increase the body’s response to it.  Unfortunately, some research shows that adjuvants may be responsible for aggressive cancers in cats.  For this reason, Brookfield does not use adjuvanted-vaccines when protecting cats against disease.


Recombinant Vaccines:  These vaccines pair the antigenic portion of the germ (the part of the germ to which the immune system responds strongest) with a live virus that is of no threat to the animal.  At Brookfield, we use recombinant feline vaccines because they do not contain adjuvants.


Toxoid Vaccines:  These vaccines contain analogues of whatever toxin you are trying to protect the pet against.  A vaccine against rattlesnake venom is an example of a toxoid vaccine.  The vaccine contains enough of the rattlesnake toxin to create an immune response, but not so much as to endanger the health of the animal.


Therapeutic Biologics:  Unlike the other vaccines listed, therapeutic biologics help treat illness, not cure it.  Popular ones contain chemicals and/or antibodies that bind to harmful antigens and reduce or eliminate their effect on the pet’s body. An example of a therapeutic biologic is the ‘vaccine’, canine atopic dermatitis immunotherapeutic, which binds to the chemical that causes itchiness in dogs.


Why Does My Cat Need So Many Vaccines?


Kittens require a series of vaccines, spaced three weeks apart, from the age of 6 to 12 weeks because the immunity passed onto kittens through colostrum (mother’s milk) roadblocks some of the effectiveness of the initial doses.  As immunity from the mother wains, the consecutive series of vaccines works to stimulate the offspring’s immune system so that the pet has a consistent level of protection throughout its initial weeks of life.   Once the series is finished, the kitten possesses enough immunity to guard against disease for a full year.  Thereafter, vaccines are re-administered as needed, throughout the cat’s life, to boost immunity.


Vaccines Explained


There is so much great information about vaccines already written, that we’ll just provide a brief overview of all the vaccines we recommend and then offer you this link to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) where you can learn more details.  The American Association of Feline Practitioners is the veterinary industry’s standard of excellence in cat care and Brookfield is proud to be a member of this globally-respected organization.



Rabies is a fatal illness that can infect many mammals including humans.  It is contracted by physical contact with the body fluids of infected animals.  Annual vaccination against rabies is required by law.

Distemper or FVRCP

At Brookfield, our feline distemper vaccine is actually a combination vaccine (abbreviated FVRCP) that protects against three virulent, serious diseases, none of which have anything to do with canine distemper.  The combination vaccine has the dubious honor of being named after canine distemper because of the similar neurological signs that sometimes accompany infection by any one of the diseases mentioned above. The vaccine includes protection against Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (also known as Feline Herpesvirus 1), Calici Virus, and Panleukopenia. Use the hyperlinks to find out more about each.

Feline Leukemia

There is no cure for feline leukemia and once infected, cats remain positive for the disease and infectious for life. The disease is transmitted through body fluids and/or touch associated with things like mutual grooming, sharing food or water bowls, mating, and fighting.  The disease can cause chronic intermittent episodes of fever, gum ulceration, and malaise.  Patients can also be asymptomatic for years.  Most cats infected with feline leukemia go on to develop more serious diseases like lymphoma, anemia, opportunistic infections, or oral inflammatory disease.  Cats living with other cats that are leukemia positive, that go outside, or that live in households where the leukemia status of the other cats is not known, should all be vaccinated

Other Vaccines

Other vaccines against diseases like Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV, not related to human HIV or transmittable to humans) exist, but are not routinely offered by Brookfield.  If you are interested in having your pet vaccinated against these diseases, talk with one of our vets.  We’ll be able to walk you through your concerns and provide you with the best options for your pet.


Brookfield’s Kitten Vaccine Schedule


For those of you with new kittens, we’ve included an outline of what vaccines your pet will receive in the first 8 to 17 weeks of his or her life.  But keep in mind that every vaccine series is customized to the needs of your kitten based on age, lifestyle, size, breed, and history of previous vaccines.  In cases where the cat is very small, we may separate the vaccine series further so that we don’t over tax your pet’s immune system.  Any questions?  Just call us up or use the ‘contact us’ form to shoot us an email.  We’ll be happy to help you!

  • 8-9 weeks: FVRCP 1*, FeLv 1
  • 12-13 weeks:  FVRCP 2, FeLv 2, Rabies
  • 16-17 weeks: FVRCP3

*Vaccines have to be administered in a series for your young pet to acquire immunity.  Numbers after the vaccine indicate which of series is being administered.  In the case of the FVRCP vaccine (Distemper vaccine), your kitten needs at least three injections between 8 and 17 weeks for the vaccine to be effective.


Is it Safe To Vaccinate My Cat?


Yes, provided that the right vaccines are used.  As mentioned above, Brookfield selects only those vaccines that have the lowest reaction rates and the ones least likely to cause secondary cancers.  Please do not allow anyone to administer an adjuvanted vaccine to your cat without speaking to one of our vets about the risks involved. In some cases, cats experience self-limiting pain or mild inflammation at the injection site.  Both are caused by your cat’s immune system reacting to the vaccine and are signs that the vaccine is working.  In very rare cases, cats can have more serious reactions to a vaccine, but these patients typically react within minutes of receiving the injection and can be treated while they are at our office.


But My Cat is Indoor-Only And So Fearful At the Vet.  Is it Still Worth It To Vaccinate?

Firstly, we understand how stressful it can be for both pets and pet parents to bring cats to the vet.  Being placed in a carrier, traveling to the practice by car, and landing in a foreign place like a vet office can cause cats to behave fearfully and/or aggressively.  We take extra precautions to make sure your cat remains calm throughout the entire process of coming to the vet.  Please check out our resources in this area.  If your cat has a history of being afraid of travel or of being at the vet, use the form below to reach out to us or call us up.  We’ll work together to devise a plan to minimize stress.

And YES, vaccination is important.  All the diseases that we mention above can be transmitted to your cat through touch alone. It’s even possible for your to bring the disease home on your clothes!  Also, annual visits to our practice are an excellent chance for us to physically examine your cat and make sure that there are no other health issues.  Cats are incredibly good at masking illness until is is significantly advanced.  An annual physical examination by one of our doctors is critical to the long-term health of your cat.

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Posted on

September 1, 2018