Cat Vaccinations

There are many diseases we can prevent through proper vaccination. There are other diseases we can use vaccinations to make it less likely that the pet will get very sick if they encounter them. Some of these require multiple boosters initially, annual revaccinations, and some we don’t have to do as often.

Boarding, grooming facilities, and even some rental homes may request that you show proof of certain vaccinations prior to participation.

Vaccinations are strangely controversial considering we do them so frequently. As with any medication, there is a potential for side effects although most of the time this is much less likely than the benefit we are hoping to achieve.

The diseases we are vaccinating against are almost always relatively common or extremely dangerous if the pet catches them. It makes me sad to see cases where the patient dies from a disease that is very preventable with a vaccination.

It also makes me sad to see any of my patients have a reaction, no matter how small to a shot I have given. I try to look at each pet as an individual and weigh the risk of trouble against the risk of catching the disease.

Sometimes you may not want to give your pet many vaccinations all at the same time Talking through a vaccination schedule with your vet is advised in order to prioritize immunity to the concerned diseases, risks of reactions, your schedule, upcoming travel to different areas, the costs, and the number of times your pet needs to return to the office.

Some pets have extreme anxiety at the vet and this may be important in deciding how many vaccines to give at once. This is particularly true of many cats.
Below I have listed some of the most common vaccines you will hear about. Not all of them may be indicated in your animal or region.


These are COMMON viral diseases that a pet would be lucky to survive if they contracted them. Some have cause respiratory problems, some cause gut disease, and some cause brain and nerve damage.

The pets who contract them are extremely ill and even with very aggressive treatment they can die. These diseases are preventable with proper vaccination. Kittens get a series of these shots and then adults have them boostered appropriately. The vaccination for all of these are frequently given as one injection.


This is a viral disease found in many wildlife species that is 100% fatal and can be transmitted to humans. These vaccinations are required by law.

Feline Leukemia Virus-FeLV Shot

This is a viral disease of cats that is transmitted through saliva or blood contact with an infected cat. Not all cats that are exposed seem to get this but it has major and usually terminal implications if they do get it.

This virus attacks their immune cells and causes them to eventually replicate in a cancerous way. This may take years to happen but these pets usually die earlier than normal. It also can easily spread amongst other cat housemates who will then become infected as well.

There seem to be different time periods in a cat’s life that they are more susceptible to catching this. Since you cannot tell by looking at a cat if it is infected (a blood test is needed) there may be carrier cats that can transmit this in outdoor populations.

Unless you know your cat’s friends are virus free and vaccinated, you should assume your outdoor cat will be exposed at some point in life and vaccination is recommended in all outdoor cats.

This is a very sad disease for owners and vets so we are glad that there is a chance of protection through vaccination.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus-FIV

This is very similar to the human HIV virus and is spread through maternal or blood contact. This is a fatal disease that attacks the cat’s immune system and leaves them open to a range of unusual infections and cancers later in life.

Although a vaccination exists it can make testing for the disease and diagnosis very challenging later in life. This is a vaccine that many veterinarians do not use routinely for this reason.

This likes to tag along with the FeLV virus as it spreads in the same populations. It is a major health risk for cats that go outside and particularly cats that have been in a fight.

External Cat Parasites



Even clean houses can get fleas. Cats are not always itchy from these bugs. Even all indoor pets can get fleas. I’ve seen it.

These are small fast moving bugs that seem to multiply even faster. Some regions of the country have huge populations of fleas while others it is only seasonal or during periods of heavy rain. Any temperature above the freezing mark can have active adult fleas.

The eggs they lay-and they lay a lot-can hide out in many areas and hatch up to several years down the road. Luckily they can be strongly discouraged by using some of the newer products out there. The most effective ones seem to be the ones you can get from your vet and are used monthly.

Just because you use the products does not mean your are home free. I have seen breakthrough occasionally through no fault of the owner or vet.

Sometimes the pet spits the product out, sometimes they get wet right after it is applied, sometimes they encounter an overwhelming number of fleas: whatever the reason, I find it is always nice to do spot checks for them when you are loving on your dog anyway.

Look at their fur down near its base, especially right in the area where the tail joins the back. If there is dirt there, get a little bit of the dirt and put it on a lightly damp paper towel. If the paper towel around the dirt turns rust red-you probably have fleas or have encountered a flea recently.

You may want to call your vet and decide what to do. Maybe a new flea product, maybe combing, maybe nothing. Don’t forget to think about the environment and what you may want to do to help bring down the number of eggs that could be around.


These are tricky little bugs that latch onto your pet and try to get a blood meal. Luckily cats don’t seem to carry these around as often and are not usually contenders for the diseases that troublesome dogs. The topical preventative is helpful and it makes your pet less tasty to ticks it does not completely prevent tick exposure.

Internal parasites


YES, CATS CAN GET IT TOO! This is a parasite that lives in the bloodstream and heart. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and is eventually fatal if untreated.

Fortunately, cats don’t seem to get this as quite as easily as dogs, but some still do. If your cat catches this, treatment options are extremely limited compared to dogs.

Good news! Heartworm disease is preventable by giving your pet medication every month to kill any baby parasites they have encountered the previous month.

Your pet should be heartworm free prior to starting the prevention so your vet should do a blood test to make sure it is safe.

Most everyone forgets to give this, or their pet secretly spits it out, or runs out unexpectedly at some time during their pets life?.please be honest with your vet about this and get a blood test when appropriate. We want to keep your cat safe from this one, it is a nasty!

Gut parasites

There are a whole bunch of these out there that are more common than we would like to think. Some are worms but there are a few other types around.

They are mostly transmitted by contact with parasite eggs in infected poop. A few of them are transmitted by fleas, and some even by eating other dead animals.

They are pretty gross to think about because of their association with poop but even clean pets and homes can catch them. They sometimes cause GI troubles like diarrhea or vomiting but not always.

Many pets carry them around and don’t show any signs. Some of them can spread to people. They can be challenging to get rid of because they like to hang out in the area and reinfect pets even after they have been treated.

Luckily, many of the heartworm preventatives will kill off most of the common poop transmitted parasites. The most common players are: hookworms, roundworms, coccidia, giardia, tapeworms, and whipworms.

Talk to your vet about the best choices on deworming, testing and prevention.

Check-ups for Your Cat

There may be years that your cat is not due for a vaccination but it is still important to go have their doctor take a look at them. Getting an official weight, checking for lumps and bumps, inspecting the teeth, and giving their heart a good listen can help head off problems or give you more time and options when making a decision about their health.

Usually there are at least a few things that have come up during the year that you might want to talk about with a healthcare professional. Writing down any questions you have prior to the visit can be helpful in making sure you get all your pet related concerns addressed.

You and your vet may want to check your cat’s internal organs more specifically by using blood tests to look at organs like the liver, kidneys, and thyroid. Knowing about potential sources of trouble for your pet can help head off many crisis’ and allow you to make more informed decisions about your cat’s medical care in the future.

Leave a Reply