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Cat Vaccinations

Vaccinations for your Cat
Cats can suffer from some very distressing diseases and it is essential that they are vaccinated if you want them to have a long, happy and healthy life.

Cats, like all other mammals gain temporary immunity when they are first born as they suckle from their mother. This protection depends very much on how much immunity the mother has and how much the kitten has managed to suckle in the first two or three days of life. Smaller kittens will not get as much protection as their larger littermates. It is important to realise that this system helps the young kitten to fend off the infections that cause scouring and pneumonia and not just the ones that we can vaccinate against.

Vaccination is an integral part of a preventative health care programme. Every cat should be vaccinated against three core diseases – Feline Panleukopaenia, or more commonly known as Feline Infectious Enteritis , Feline Herpesvirus and Feline Calicivirus (both causes of “cat flu”). These diseases can have devastating consequences for a cat and it is easy to prevent them by regular vaccination. Vaccination programmes can vary according to area and lifestyle, talk to your local vet about the appropriate vaccination programme for your cat.

Your cat should have an up-to-date vaccination record made out in their name and detailing the diseases that they have been protected against. Your cat’s vaccination card should be stamped or signed and dated by the veterinary clinic outlining the exact dates of each vaccination. If you acquire a cat, and he or she does not have a vaccination record you should not assume that the vaccination has been carried out.

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

– is a major cause of death in young adult cats. The virus is commonly spread by close cat-to-cat contact from bite and scratch wounds, licking and grooming to shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. The virus is also shed in very high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions, but also in urine, and faeces. It is also transferred from an infected queen to her kittens while they are still in the womb and when suckling.

The time between infection with the virus and the appearance of signs of the disease may vary from weeks to several years in some cases. Infected cats can appear healthy but still be a risk of infection to others. Feline Leukaemia Virus is a retrovirus, so named because of the way it behaves within infected cells. All retroviruses, including Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), produce an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, which permits them to insert copies of their own genetic material into that of the cells they have infected. Although many of the symptoms caused by FeLV and FIV are similar they are very different diseases.

FeLV infected cats are found worldwide, but the prevalence of infection varies greatly depending on their age, health, environment, and lifestyle. Rates are significantly higher in cats that are very young, elderly or otherwise ill. FeLV doesn’t survive long outside a cat’s body—probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions. Feline Leukaemia Virus adversely affects the cat’s body in many ways. It is the most common cause of cancer in cats, it may cause various blood disorders, and it may lead to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections.

During the early stages of infection, it is common for cats to exhibit no signs of disease at all. However, over time the cat’s health may progressively deteriorate or be characterized by recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Signs can include: loss of appetite, weight loss, poor coat condition, enlarged lymph nodes, fever, diarrhoea, pale gums and other mucus membranes, gingivitis, stomatitis, lesions and seizures.

FeLV is present in the blood (a condition called viremia) during two different stages of infection:

Primary viremia

– an early stage of virus infection. During this stage some cats are able to mount an effective immune response, eliminate the virus from the bloodstream, and halt progression to the secondary viremia stage.

Secondary viremia

– a later stage characterized by persistent infection of the bone marrow and other tissue. If FeLV infection progresses to this stage it has passed a point of no return: the overwhelming majority of cats with secondary viremia will be infected for the remainder of their lives.


– also known as Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE), is a viral infection that attacks the bones and intestinal wall. Panleukopenia is primarily spread through contact with an infected cat’s bodily fluids, faeces or fleas. Sometimes it is spread through contact with bedding, food dishes, or even by handlers of infected cats.

The virus primarily attacks the lining of the gastrointestinal tract causing internal ulceration and, ultimately, total sloughing of the intestinal lining. This results in profuse and usually bloody diarrhea, severe dehydration, malnutrition, anemia and often death. The virus causes a decrease in the cat’s white blood cells, thus compromising its immune system. Other symptoms include depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, dehydration, and self-biting in the tail, lower back and back legs.

Feline panleukopenia requires aggressive treatment if the cat is to survive, as this disease can kill cats in less than 24 hours. Treatment involves blood transfusion, intravenous fluids as most cats are dehydrated, injections of vitamins A, B, and C, antibiotics to prevent septicemia which develops in most cats with feline panleukopenia if antibiotics are not used, and hospitalization.

Cat Flu

– is the common name of a respiratory infection that affects thousands of cats every year. The illness is highly contagious and tends to thrive in places where there are large feline populations, such as rescue shelters and feral colonies.

Although virtually any cat can contract cat flu whether it has been vaccinated or not, the disease can be especially hard on kittens and senior cats, as well as cats diagnosed with feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia.

In all too many cases, the infection proves fatal, but many cats do manage to survive the illness and eventually recover. However, once a cat has had cat flu, it will be a carrier of the virus for the rest of its life.

Cat flu is caused by several feline viruses. Certain bacteria also play a role in the onset of symptoms, as well as cause secondary infections that can lead to pneumonia. Let’s take a closer look at two of the most prevalent causes and the flu-like symptoms associated with them.

Feline Calicivirus

– typically causes a milder form of cat flu, but the experience is still quite unpleasant. Your cat may not participate in normal activities such as playing and investigating their surroundings. It’s more common for cats to survive this strain of respiratory infection

Symptoms include:

Runny nose and eyes Fever Lethargy Joint pain/limping Ulcers of the mouth and paw pads Gum Inflammation
Feline Herpesvirus

– causes a more serious variety of feline flu that is more likely to claim the lives of infected cats.

Symptoms include:

Conjunctivitis: Inflammation and puss-like discharge from the eyes Rhinitis: Inflamed nasal passages and discharge Sneezing Fever Lethargy Loss of appetite Corneal ulcers
Cat flu viruses can spread like wildfire from one infected cat to the next. The virus is active in bodily fluids, especially in saliva and the discharge pouring from the eyes and nose. This means the virus is spread through direct contact as well as by indirect contact when the shed virus is deposited on food bowls, litter boxes, bedding and clothing.

As mentioned previously, cats that survive a bout of feline flu almost always become carriers of the virus. Some will shed it continuously in their bodily fluids, while others only appear to shed the virus during times of stress. A carrier will have reoccurring bouts of flu, but they are usually not as serious as the initial infection.

Treatment of the illness mainly consists of supportive measures since there is currently no cure for either virus. Vets usually prescribe antibiotics to fight off secondary infections. By and large, sick cats are kept warm and encouraged to take food and water. Crusty discharge is regularly cleaned away from the eyes and nose to make the patient more comfortable. In severe cases, some cats are hospitalized and administered IV fluids, and it’s extremely important to isolate sick cats in order to reduce the chance of spreading the virus to other felines.

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