If you’re welcoming a new kitten into your household, you might be wondering if they’ll need any vaccinations and if so, what they’re for.
Vaccinations play a big role in your cat’s preventative healthcare, as they safeguard them from common diseases that can be caught from other animals and their environment. Kittens have immature immune systems and are more susceptible to diseases. Vaccinating them helps provide immunity to these diseases and safeguards their health during this vulnerable period.
By following the recommended vaccine schedule suggested by your vet, starting from when they’re a kitten, you can feel reassured that your cat is protected, and prevent the spread of contagious illnesses, which in turn supports the health of other cats.
Core and Non-Core Vaccines
There are several vaccines available for your cat, divided into two categories: core and non-core. Core vaccines are recommended for all cats in Australia. Non-core vaccines are optional vaccinations that may be advised depending on your cat’s risk. Your vet will consider your kitten’s location, lifestyle, and other risk factors – such as whether they go outside, their exposure to other animals and presence of disease in the local area.
During the vaccination appointment, your vet will also assess your kitten’s overall health. If a kitten is unwell or has a temperature, they should not be vaccinated until they’ve fully recovered.
Initially, kittens receive protection from diseases thanks to the antibodies found in their mother’s milk. However, it’s important to follow the advised vaccination schedule to strengthen and maintain this defence as it becomes weakened over time. A kitten’s vaccination schedule begins when they’re 6-8 weeks old and isn’t completed until they’re around three or four months old. They’ll also need regular boosters throughout their adult life to support immunity for the long term.
At 6-8 weeks of age, the three core cat vaccinations are combined into one injection called an F3 vaccine and cover:
- Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus)
- Panleukopenia (Parvovirus)
Your kitten will need their next vaccinations around four weeks after their first. This may be administered as an F3 booster to cover the three core vaccines, or potentially as an F4 or F5 injection, which cover the core vaccines, as well as additional non-core vaccines. A separate FIV vaccine is also available to protect against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Your veterinarian will be able to advise which vaccinations best suit your kitten’s needs.
- F3: Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Parvovirus)
- F4: Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Parvovirus)
- Chlamydia OR Feline Leukaemia virus (FeLV)
- F5: Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Parvovirus)
- Chlamydia AND Feline Leukaemia virus (FeLV)
- FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus).
The FIV vaccine is a course of three injections and can be administered in two week or monthly intervals, followed by annual boosters.
At three to four months old, your kitten will need their final set of initial vaccinations. This will be a booster of the same vaccinations they received at 10-12 weeks (with exception of the FIV vaccine, which works on a slightly different schedule).
Don’t Forget Their Boosters
The immunity that a kitten builds up from their early vaccinations will diminish over time, so cats need regular booster vaccinations throughout their lives to maintain protection. These will cover the same diseases as their previous vaccinations and are usually administered every 12 months, but some vaccinations can be given at longer intervals. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best schedule for your cat. If you decide down the track that you need your cat to receive any of the non-core vaccinations, that can also be arranged with your vet.
After your kitten has received their vaccination, it’s best to avoid touching them around the injection site for 24 hours or so. They may also appear a bit lethargic or off their food for a day or two following their vaccinations. If this is the case, provide them with a cosy place to rest and continue to monitor them as well as offer food and water. If they show any other symptoms, or you’re concerned, then don’t hesitate to contact your vet. If you notice excessive scratching, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhoea, you should contact your vet immediately.
Vaccinations are an effective way to help keep your cat healthy. Along with high quality nutrition, they’re an important aspect to being a responsible pet parent.