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    New Kitten and No Vaccinations yet.
    mboatwight posted:
    I recently acquired a 3 month old kitten from a close friend. Her name is Kippers and she was one of 3 surviving kittens in a litter of four. Although she has been raised thus far inside a house, her mother was a stray and the other cats in the house also originated from a second stray female. I am going to have her fixed in a week and she will also be getting her rabies shot. Are there any other vaccinations that I should have her get? Are there any other things I should take care of medical wise?
    srstephanie responded:
    Hi mboatwight,

    The best info on feline vaccination is in the 2006 AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) Feline Vaccination Guidelines. They were written by an "Advisory Panel" composed of many of the top veterinary specialists in immunology, infectious disease, feline medicine, etc. The Advisory Panel has just been reassembled to update and rewrite the Guidelines but it will take them a year or two. The current 2006 Guidelines are still the best source of info on vaccinations.

    You can read the Guidelines at:

    Since the Guidelines are long and technical, I also recommend the personal website of Dr Richard Ford (at North Carolina State Univ) who is one of the co-authors of the Guidelines. He has created a series of tables that summarize the recommendations of the Guidelines, along with notes on recommendations since the Guidelines were written. His website is:

    That said ... the Guidelines organize Feline vaccines into three categories:

    1) Core Vaccines
    - vaccines which they feel EVERY kitten/cat should receive, either because the disease is very serious and/or very common. Currently, the Core Vaccines are:
    a) Panleukopenia (sometimes called "Distemper" though it is really a Parvo virus),
    b) Herpesvirus-1, and
    c) Calicivirus
    Herpes/Calici are VERY common upper respiratory viruses.
    d) Rabies which must be given in accordance with local laws.

    2) Non-Core Vaccines - vaccines that are recommended only if there is a known risk of exposure. The Non-Core vaccines include:
    a) FeLV (i.e. Feline Leukemia) - this is actually considered "Core" for KITTENS who are VERY susceptible to the virus if exposed. If there is ANY possibility of the kitten getting outside, they recommend giving the FeLV vaccine (two doses, given 3-4 weeks apart). But ADULT cats have a natural immunity to FeLV ... they can still get it but it is difficult for them to become infected, so generally adult cats do not need FeLV unless they are outdoor cats that like to fight.
    b) FIV (i.e. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, sometimes called "Feline AIDS"). This is generally only given to outdoor fighting cats ... and even then, many vets/specialists prefer not to give FIV vaccines. There is some concern that the vaccine does not give good protection ... and, once vaccinated, the cat will test positive on all current FIV tests, so there is no way to determine if the cat has the disease or is testing positive because of the vaccine. This can be a death sentence if the cat ever ends up in a shelter.
    c) Chlamydophila felis (formerly called Chlamydia) - this is a bacterial infection that causes conjunctivitis. It is considered uncommon in N America and can generally be treated easily with antibiotics, so the vaccine is not normally recommended unless there is a known exposure risk.
    d) Bordetella - another respiratory disease (which is also one cause of "Kennel Cough" in dogs). It is also a bacterial infection that responds to antibiotics and not recommended unless there is a known exposure risk.

    3) Generally Not Recommended - Vaccines that the Advisory Panel members recommend NOT be given because the vaccines do not protect. Currently there is just one vaccine in this category:
    a) FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)

    The three Core vaccines: Panleukopenia, Herpes, Calici are usually given as a single "3-way" vaccine. It is recommended that it be given as an injected "Modified Live Virus" vaccine.

    If possible, the Recombinant Rabies vaccine is preferred. Most strongly recommend avoiding all Killed Virus Vaccines because of the inflammation they cause that can increase the risk of a very aggressive cancer at the vaccination site.

    Also, it is VERY IMPORTANT that the kitten receive a final kitten series vaccination (for all the Core vaccines ... though only 1 dose of Rabies is needed) at or after 16 WEEKS of age ... or the kitten may not be fully protected.

    Hope that helps.
    Stephanie in Montreal
    srstephanie responded:
    Hi mboatwight,

    Sorry for the long reply. Just wanted to add a couple other thoughts.

    As with all vaccinations, the kitten should have a good check-up by the vet first, since it is recommended that vaccinations only be given to healthy cats.

    If you haven't already, your vet will likely want to give a worming medication, particularly since your kitten is from a stray (some types of worms can be transmitted directly from the mother).

    With the vaccinations for Herpes/Calici ... be aware that the vaccines will not prevent infection. The vaccines are given because they will lessen the symptoms of the viruses if the cat becomes infected. They are important because both Herpes and Calici can be serious and sometimes fatal in young kittens. But if the kitten should get a slight runny nose or watery eyes, it doesn't mean the vaccines did not work. Rather, they help keep the symptoms mild.

    On the other hand, the Panleukopenia vaccine is very effective and will prevent infection. After the booster as an adult, the protection is felt to be for life.

    All the Core vaccines must be boostered as an adult, one year after the last of the kitten series (generally at 1 yr, 4 months old). After that, the recommendation is to booster Panleukopenia/Herpes/Calici every THREE years. The Rabies must be given according to the label of the vaccine being used ... either 1 or 3 years.

    It is common for kittens/cats to have MILD post-vaccination reactions, e.g. soreness, being quieter, less appetite, etc ... for 2-3 days. That is actually a sign that the immune system is reacting to the vaccines. But, vaccines are biological products and there is always the possibility that a few kittens will have a more severe reaction ... in which case you would need to let your vet know.

    The general principle in vaccinations is to give the vaccines that are needed ... but don't give any more than is needed.

    Congratulations on your new kitten!

    Stephanie in Montreal
    Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP responded:
    As you can see, there's lots of information about vaccinating cats. The American Association of Feline Practitioners vaccine guidelines are just that: guidelines. This is really a discussion to have with your veterinarian, as he'll know your kitten's lifestyle and risk factors.

    That said, here's what is most common: first, test her for Feline Leukemia and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.) If she's negative, she should be vaccinated for Distemper, Feline Leukemia, and Rabies. Some of these vaccines need to be repeated in three weeks. She should also be checked for internal and external parasites. If you live in a part of the United States where heartworms exist, she should also be put on a heartworm preventative.

    Drew Weigner, DVM, ABVP
    The Cat Doctor
    Board Certified in Feline Practice

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