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Kitten Vaccinations

Most infectious diseases are more prevalent in kittens. Kittens less than 6-months-old are more susceptible to infection and disease than adult cats. Therefore, kittens represent a primary target population for vaccines.

When do kittens get their first shots?

If a kitten’s mother was appropriately vaccinated, then the kitten will have received “maternal antibodies” in utero. These antibodies help protect the newborn kitten against the diseases that we vaccinate against. These “maternal antibodies,” can stick around in a kitten’s system for up to 16 weeks and can interfere with the immune response desired from vaccination. Because of this, we do not recommend giving the first FVRCP vaccine until 8 weeks of age, when the maternal antibodies are starting to decline.

How often do my kittens need a vaccine?

It is recommended that kittens receive the core FVRCP vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age. The reason the vaccines are repeated is to boost the immune response. Ideally, the final vaccine is given around or after 16 weeks, to ensure that the maternal antibodies have left the system. Rabies can be given after 12 weeks of age and is usually given at the 16-week vaccine appointment.

Does my kitten need only core vaccines?

Cats that go outside, live in multi-cat households where other cats go outside, or cats that go to boarding kennels should receive the feline leukemia vaccine. Feline leukemia is spread by any bodily secretion (saliva, blood, urine and feces), so direct contact with other infected cats is not necessary to transmit disease. There is no cure if a cat becomes infected and cannot clear the virus. The virus suppresses the immune system and predisposes cats to lymphoma, and deadly infections. It is recommended that all kittens receive the feline leukemia vaccine the first year of life, as many kittens that were initially going to be “indoor only,” start going outside. The feline leukemia vaccine is given at 12 and 16 weeks of age.

Are there any risks associated with vaccines?

There are many risk variables that we take into consideration before vaccinating, including overall health, immunodeficiency, immunosuppressive therapy, and nutritional status. With any vaccine, there is a rare possibility of allergic reaction. This happens very quickly after vaccination and may cause loss of appetite, pain at the site of injection, lethargy, vomiting, and fever. There is also the rare possibility (less than 0.0001 %) of developing a feline injection site sarcoma. This is a malignant tumour linked to vaccine injection, especially if given higher up on the body.

There are many risk variables that we take into consideration before vaccinating, including overall health, immunodeficiency, immunosuppressive therapy, and nutritional status. With any vaccine, there is a rare possibility of allergic reaction. This happens very quickly after vaccination and may cause loss of appetite, pain at the site of injection, lethargy, vomiting, and fever. There is also the rare possibility (less than 0.0001 %) of developing a feline injection site sarcoma. This is a malignant tumour linked to vaccine injection, especially if given higher up on the body.

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