Vaccinations: protecting your cat

Vaccinations protect against a wide range of infectious diseases, many of which can be fatal for our pets.

Vaccinations protect your cat from:

Vaccinations for kittens

Serious diseases like cat flu can affect cats of any age but kittens are especially vulnerable. It’s important to get them vaccinated early to reduce their risk of becoming seriously ill:

Booster vaccinations for cats

Your cat will need booster vaccinations throughout their life to make sure they remain protected from serious diseases. These are usually needed once a year but speak to your vet about what’s best for your cat.

What do vaccinations protect your cat from?

Our vets have put together information about each of the diseases vaccinations can protect against. Take a look at the information below to find out more about why vaccination is a vital part of caring for your cat.

Cat Flu

What is cat flu, and how is it spread?

Cat flu is the general term for a number of a viruses that cause symptoms similar to the common cold in humans. Some virus strains can spread through the air. Most are spread by direct contact with other cats that have the virus, through saliva or from runny eyes and noses. Mother cats can also pass on cat flu to their kittens.

Cat flu is widespread across the UK and can survive on objects like cat beds and bowls, passing on to other cats that use these items.

Symptoms of cat flu

Commonly seen symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • runny eyes and nose
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • drooling
  • ulcers on the eyes or mouth.

Kittens and older cats are particularly susceptible because they have weaker immune systems.

In serious cases, cat flu can develop into pneumonia or can cause ulcers to form on the eyes. This can lead to permanent damage and sometime cats can lose one or both eyes.

How is cat flu treated?

There isn’t a cure for cat flu so vets can only treat the symptoms. This may include eye drops, pain killers, and in severe cases cats might need to be put on a drip or be fed via a tube.

Older cats are usually less serious affected, but in young kittens the most serious strains of the viruses can be fatal, even with the best treatment.

Preventing cat flu

  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent cat flu – this protects kittens and cats from the main virus strains that cause the disease
  • Don’t allow young kittens outdoors, or to come into contact with older cats, until they are fully protected – usually two weeks after their second set of jabs.
  • Always wash your hands before handling young, unvaccinated kittens
  • Pregnant cats can pass the disease onto their kittens, so it’s important that they are vaccinated before they become pregnant.
  • Cats that have recovered from cat flu can sometimes become carriers of the disease, so can pass the infection to other cats. This is why it’s important for all cats to be vaccinated.

Feline infectious enteritis

What is it, and how is it spread?

Feline infectious enteritis - also known as ‘parvovirus in cats’ - is a serious virus that attacks the lining of the intestines. It is easily passed from cat-to-cat.

The disease is spread though contact with infected urine and faeces but can remain in the environment for some time. Pregnant cats can also pass it on to their unborn kittens.

Feline infectious enteritis is widespread throughout the UK.

Symptoms of feline enteritis

The virus attacks the cat’s immune system, leaving them unable to fight infection. Symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • vomiting
  • severe and bloody diarrhoea
  • lack of appetite
  • unusual tiredness or lack of energy
  • seizures.

Pregnant cats can lose their kittens because of the infection or pass it on to their unborn litter. Her kittens could suffer from blindness or cerebellar hypoplasia - a type of brain damage which causes tremors and poor co-ordination.

How is feline enteritis treated?

There is no cure for feline enteritis. Vets treat the symptoms by giving intravenous fluids, medicine to control vomiting, and antibiotics if the cat also has another infection.

Older cats are more likely to survive but it is often fatal for young kittens, even with the best treatment.

Kittens born with cerebellar hypoplasia - when the virus is passed to them by their mother before they’re born - will always suffer from tremors and poor co-ordination. However, given the right care and support these kittens can go on to lead otherwise healthy lives.

Preventing feline enteritis

  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent feline enteritis.
  • Kittens should remain indoors until two weeks after completing their primary vaccination course.
  • As the virus can be passed on the womb, it’s particularly important for female cats to be fully vaccinated before they become pregnant.

Feline Chlamydophilosis

What is feline chlamydophilosis and how is it spread?

Feline Chlamydophilosis - also known as ‘feline chlamydia’ – is caused by a type of bacteria. It attacks the lungs, stomach and intestines, and reproductive system.

Feline chlamydia is passed on through direct contact with infected cats and is fairly common in the UK.

Feline chlamydia only affects cats and can’t be passed on to humans.

Symptoms of feline chlamydia

Symptoms can include:

  • sneezing
  • runny eyes and nose
  • conjunctivitis
  • breathing difficulties
  • mild fever
  • unusual tiredness and lack of energy.

It can affect cats of all ages, but young kittens are especially vulnerable.

How is feline chlamydia treated?

Cats will need to take antibiotics to fight the infection. They’ll need to take these for 3-4 weeks to make sure all the bacteria have been killed. Eye drops or ointments may also be given.

If there is more than one cat in the same house, all the cats will need to be treated.

Untreated cats might recover by themselves but they will be contagious for several months so could pass the illness on to other cats.

Preventing feline chlamydia

  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent feline chlamydia.
  • Kittens should get their shots at an early age and should be kept away from unvaccinated cats until they are fully protected – about 2 weeks after their second round of injections.
  • Your cat will need boosters throughout their life to stay protected – your vet can give you more information about boosters.
  • It’s important to keep your cat up-to-date with their vaccinations if they regularly mix with other cats or if you have more than one cat in your house.

Feline Leukaemia virus

What is it feline leukaemia and how is it spread?

Feline leukaemia is a type of virus. It leads to the development of cancers, such as lymphoma, leukaemia and other tumours.

Feline leukaemia is fairly common in the UK. It is spread through a cat’s infected saliva, faeces, urine and milk. Pregnant cats can also pass the disease onto their unborn kittens.

Symptoms of feline leukaemia

The main sign that a cat is suffering from feline leukaemia is when they struggle to fight off other infections. Other symptoms vary but can include:

  • unusual tiredness or lack of energy.
  • depression
  • poor appetite and weight loss
  • fever
  • ongoing breathing, digestion or skin problems.

Some cats might have noticeable tumours or lumps, and might not be able to have kittens.

Feline leukaemia weakens a cat’s immune system, making it more likely that they’ll pick up other illnesses and will struggle to get rid of them. A cat is more likely to die from one of these illnesses than from the feline leukaemia itself.

How is feline leukaemia treated?

There is no cure for feline leukaemia and, sadly, most cats will die with 3 or 4 years of catching the disease. However, vets can help to keep affected cats healthy for as long as possible by treating any other illnesses they pick up

Good preventive care is really important for cats with feline leukaemia. This includes:

  • regular worming and flea treatments
  • vaccinations
  • vet checks twice a year.

Maintaining a good diet and a healthy weight is also recommended, and affected cats must be kept indoors.

Preventing feline leukaemia

  • Vaccination is the best way to prevent feline leukaemia.
  • Kittens should be vaccinated at an early age and kept indoors until two weeks after their second set of shots.
  • Cats need regular booster throughout their life. This is usually needed once a year but speak to your vet about what’s best for your cat.
  • Any cat with feline leukaemia should be kept indoors, and apart from other cats to prevent spreading the disease.

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