Vaccinations are an important part of caring for your cat. Vaccines provide protection from some diseases such as enteritis (feline panleukopaenia) and cat flu (feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus). Cats who are vaccinated will either show no signs of illness or are less likely to become seriously ill from specific diseases.
Core vaccines are those that all cats should receive to protect them against key diseases including enteritis (feline panleukopaenia, a parvovirus) and cat flu (feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus). This vaccination combination is commonly known as the F3 vaccination.
Non-core vaccines are those that should only be given to cats in specific risk categories based on an individual risk/benefit assessment . This assessment will take into account the geographical location, lifestyle and risk of exposure to the infection of the individual cat. Examples of no-core vaccines include feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
It is best to speak to your vet about your cat’s individual needs.
The first core vaccination administered to kittens is from 6-8 weeks of age, then every 3–4 weeks until 16–20 weeks of age. A booster vaccine is then given at 12 months of age to ensure that a protective immune response develops in any cat that may not have responded to any of the first three vaccines. It is important to follow this schedule to ensure the vaccines are effective.
Please speak to your veterinarian about what vaccinations are right for your kitten or if you are concerned about your kitten’s vaccination being overdue.
An adult cat who has received a primary vaccination course will require the core vaccination every 1-3 years, depending on the duration of immunity provided by the vaccine your veterinarian uses and the cat’s individual circumstances. Check with your veterinarian.
If you have a cat who is an adult but has not been vaccinated or whose vaccination history or status is unknown, they will need two doses of the core vaccination, 3–4 weeks apart. A booster vaccine is then given at 12 months of age and then vaccination every 1-3 years.
Frequency of vaccinations for adult cats and boarding facility requirements
The frequency of feline booster vaccinations varies from 1-3 years depending on the vaccine, disease and risk of with the individual cat. In general, it is recommended by expert panels on feline vaccination that cats who stay at a boarding cattery will require an annual vaccination (or a booster vaccine before the cat goes into the boarding facility if the cat has not been vaccinated in the preceding year) as this is a higher risk situation than a normal home environment [1, 2]. This is because boarding may be stressful for a cat and stress has immunosuppressive effects which may result in increased susceptibility to infection and disease. Also, depending on the cattery and the situation at the time, boarding may lead to exposure to infectious agents. The cat flu component of the core vaccination is the part that may not give sufficient duration and strength of immunity for higher risk situations such as boarding and the pathogens causing cat flu are also those cats are most likely to be exposed to in a boarding facility. In addition, the feline situation is made more complicated as, unlike with dog vaccines, there are no cat vaccines that have a registered claim for three years.
Therefore, it is still recommended that a cat should have had a vaccination within 12 mths of entering a boarding facility which is considered a high-risk environment due particularly to the risk of cat flu. For this reason, and as there is no registered vaccine in Australia that has a registered claim for three years duration of effect for animals in high risk environments, almost all cat boarding facilities require cats to have received a vaccination booster within the 12 months prior to admission to the facility to provide the cats with the best possible protection against cat flu.
Please speak to your veterinarian for the most appropriate advice for your cat.
Your veterinarian will always do a health check before administering a vaccination to ensure your kitten or cat is healthy to be vaccinated. In addition, this provides an excellent opportunity for your veterinarian to fully examine your cat and discuss any health issues. This allows any health concerns your cat has, to be addressed as early as possible, giving your cat the best chance possible to be healthy and comfortable.
The core vaccines used in cats are very safe with a very low incidence of adverse reactions; the benefits of protection from serious infectious disease significantly outweigh the risks of developing an adverse reaction. If you have any concerns about adverse vaccine reactions or the health of your cat, it is best to speak to your veterinarian.
 Day MJ, Horzinek MC, Schultz RD et al (2016) Guidelines for the vaccination of dogs and cats compiled by the Vaccination Guidelines Group (VGG) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). Journal of Small Animal Practice, 57:1-45. doi: 10.1111/jsap.2_12431.