Your cat is your best friend

We know that you care for your cat and want to ensure that he remains happy and healthy throughout his life and will do anything all you can to achieve this.

One easy way in which you can help to ensure that your cat is protected from infectious diseases is to ensure that he is vaccinated as a kitten and regularly throughout his adult life.

Why Vaccination is important

Cats can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination every year.

Regular vaccination can protect your cat from infectious diseases such as cat flu, feline leukaemia virus and feline infectious enteritis.

This site contains information on each of these diseases. By preventing these diseases you can help ensure that your cat stays healthy and happy.

Why you need to vaccinate your cat regularly.

Primary Vaccination

For the first few weeks of life, kittens are usually protected against disease from the immunity they receive in their mother's milk. However, this maternal immunity may also neutralise any vaccine given at this time. Gradually this protection decreases, and the maternal immunity acquired at birth declines to a sufficiently low level for the animal to no longer be protected. This also allows the animal to respond to vaccination and so at this stage it is possible this is the best time to start the vaccination programme.

Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet's particular needs and the local disease pattern.

Annual Vaccination

Many people believe that if they have their pet vaccinated when it is a kitten the immunity it receives will protect it for the rest of its life.

Unfortunately this is not the case.

After the last injection, the immune level reaches a peak and then begins to decline. After a year, the level of protection offered to your pet may no longer be sufficient.

Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet's immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.

How vaccines work

Vaccines work by training the white blood cells in your cat's body to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular bug organism if your cat is in contact with it again.

Diseases of cats

There are four important viruses in cats for which vaccines are available.

Feline Infectious Enteritis

Feline infectious enteritis (also known as panleucopaenia or parvovirus) is a severe disease that fortunately has become much less common thanks to highly effective vaccines.

The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of symptoms.

Once a cat becomes infected by parvovirus, the virus invades the intestines and bone marrow. This leads to sudden and severe bleeding into the gut, resulting in dehydration and shock and damage to the immune system. Death is common and frequently rapid unless emergency veterinary treatment is received. Kittens born to infected mothers are weak, prone to infections and may have permanent brain damage.

Feline Upper Respiratory Disease

This is caused by two important viruses and may be complicated by secondary bacteria. The two viruses are called feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus, and together they form the disease commonly called "cat flu".

Feline herpesvirus will infect most cats in their lifetime, and most cats will become lifelong carriers. They may excrete the virus when they become stressed or ill, causing repeated bouts of illness. Vaccination protects cats from disease, but the immunity does not last long and needs regular boosters for the best possible protection.

The virus attacks the eyes, mouth and lungs, causing severe symptoms such as fever, eye ulcers and pneumonia. The infection is often made worse by secondary bacterial infections. Infected mothers give birth to small, weak kittens.

Feline calicivirus is also very common. It is generally less severe, but causes painful ulcers of the mouth and tongue, and may again be complicated by bacterial infections. Vaccination is highly effective at protecting cats from disease, but regular boosters are required.

Feline Leukaemia Virus

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is the biggest killer of cats in the UK apart from after car accidents. Infected animals may not show any signs for months or even years, so many more cats may be infected before the warning signs are seen.

It is easily spread in saliva and blood, so cats are infected when grooming each other, sharing food bowls and litter trays and when fighting.

Animals are usually infected in the first months of life, but any age of animal including adults and unborn kittens may become infected.

FeLV attacks the white blood cells and bone marrow. This makes the cat vulnerable to secondary infections. It also causes anaemia and cancer of the blood, intestines and other parts of the body.

One in three cats that catch the virus will develop the disease. Only early vaccination and regular boosters can protect your cat from the virus.

Rabies Vaccination and the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS)

Rabies is a fatal disease, which affects both cats and humans. Rabies was eradicated from this country many years ago and strict systems are in place to make sure that it is never seen again.

If you are intending to take your cat to another European country and return to the UK with it you must ensure that it is protected by having it vaccinated against rabies.

Your cat must be at least 3 months old before it can be vaccinated against rabies. It can then be vaccinated any time after it has been fitted with a microchip. Before vaccinating your cat, the vet will check its microchip number and enter it onto your pet's vaccination record.

If your cat is vaccinated against rabies before it was fitted with a microchip, it will have to be fitted with a microchip and vaccinated again. This is to make sure that your pet is correctly identified when it is vaccinated.

Booster vaccinations

After your pet has been vaccinated, it will need regular booster vaccinations to ensure it remains protected.

Remember, for the PETS Scheme you must make sure that your pet is given its booster on time otherwise it will not meet the conditions of the scheme and would have to be vaccinated and blood tested again. It would have to wait another six months before being able to enter the UK.

In order to prevent future complications please discuss the PETS Scheme in advance with your veterinary surgeon.

Please discuss with your vet all aspects of vaccination of your kitten and cat throughout its life, the important infectious diseases and how you can ensure help keep your cat remains healthy and happy.

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