Cat & Kitten Vaccinations
To stay healthy, your cat needs a series of vaccines during its lifetime. Starting as a kitten, several vaccines are given, ideally, at 6, 9, 12, and 15 weeks of age. From there, your pet should be vaccinated at each annual wellness exam.
What vaccines does my kitten need and when?
As a kitten, vaccines are given for several common diseases: feline distemper, three respiratory organisms, and rabies. The first four are included in one injection that is given three times before your kitten is 16 weeks old. Ideally vaccines are given at 6, 9, 12, and 15 weeks. The rabies vaccine is give once to a kitten at twelve to sixteen weeks and then yearly.
Optional vaccinations are appropriate in certain situations, including the Feline leukemia vaccine (FeLV) and the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus vaccine. The FeLV is strongly recommended for all cats. It is usually transmitted by direct contact with other cats, especially when fighting occurs. We also recommend the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus vaccine for all outdoor cats to prevent the deadly retrovirus.
Why must my kitten be vaccinated so frequently?
Vaccines are crucial to supporting your cat’s immune system. When a kitten nurses, it receives temporary immunity through the mother’s milk via proteins called maternal antibodies. Kittens absorb these antibodies directly into the blood stream for about twenty-four to forty-eight hours after birth. While this immunity benefits kittens during their first few weeks of life, it eventually fails and the kitten must make its own long-lasting immunity.
Many factors determine when a kitten will respond to a vaccine, given that the mother’s antibodies, if still present, will neutralize the vaccine. Factors include the level of immunity in the mother cat, how much antibody was absorbed, and the number of vaccines given to the kitten. However, a kitten is also at the greatest risk of disease as soon as the mother’s antibodies disappear. Because it can’t be determined when an individual kitten loses short-term immunity, a series of vaccines are given four weeks apart. Moreover, even if a single vaccine is effective, it is not likely to stimulate long-term immunity.
What vaccines does my cat need and when?
After your kitten is a year old, it needs to be vaccinated
- Annually for rabies, which is prevalent in the Hall County and Gainesville area;
- Annually for Feline leukemia; and
- Every three years for the three-in-one distemper.
Note that although many vets still insist on giving the three-in-one distemper vaccine to cats on an annual basis, Animal Medical Care has adopted the consensus statements of the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners that there is more than adequate evidence that the combo distemper vaccines need to be given only every three years. AMC believes that this approach is not only scientifically sound, but prevents our clients from incurring unnecessary charges.
Rabies Prevention and Control
Given the prevalence of confirmed rabies cases in the Gainesville / Hall County area and Northeast Georgia, it is important to ensure that your cat is current with its annual rabies vaccines. This is true for outdoor as well as indoor pets.
The rabies vaccine is almost 100% effective in preventing disease. In sharp contrast, if an animal or human is infected with rabies, once symptoms occur, the virus is almost 100% fatal.
Rabies vaccines are inexpensive and safe, but they must legally be administered by a licensed veterinarian.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a fatal disease that infects the brain and is passed from an infected animal to other animals or humans. The disease is passed through saliva from a bite or scratch. The disease then travels through broken skin into the nervous system and to the brain.
The most common animals carrying the rabies disease are raccoons, bats, skunks, and fox - although all mammals can carry rabies.
What are the symptoms of rabies?
Symptoms of rabies virus in animals start as flu like symptoms and progress rapidly to anxiety, agitation, dementia, delirium and death usually within four to seven days. There are two major forms of rabies; furious and dumb. The furious form of rabies is where the animal is aggressive, agitated, and drools excessively. The dumb form of rabies is where the animal seems tame and has no fear of humans. Infected animals may appear disoriented, excessively wobbly, and possibly self-mutilating.
Rabies in Georgia
Georgia has an average of 370 confirmed animal cases of rabies every year and ranks 6th in the nation of confirmed cases. Because animals are only tested if there has been a bite and testing must be done on brain tissue, it is safe to assume that far more than 370 cases occur in Georgia on an annual basis. Animals bitten by an animal with rabies that have not been vaccinated or are overdue for a rabies vaccine must be quarantined for six months or euthanized.