Vaccinating your kitten – everything you need to know

Having a kitten vaccinated before they are three months old is one of the most important things any new cat owner can do. But it’s an issue that can be confusing and throw up lots of questions.

Why should I get my kitten vaccinated?

In my experience, vaccination provides invaluable protection against diseases your cat will be exposed to such as cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukaemia. Some diseases, such as FIV (cat AIDS), can’t be protected against, but others, which may be life-threatening, can be.

Remember that under the terms of your Petplan insurance you must keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date.

What diseases do vaccinations protect against?

Having your kitten vaccinated will protect your pet from four of the most serious cat diseases I see in my surgery, these are:

  • Feline infectious enteritis
  • Feline herpes virus
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Feline leukaemia virus.

All of these diseases are contagious and can be spread by infected cats.

When should I get my kitten vaccinated?

I recommend that kittens start with a course of two injections, given at nine and 12 weeks. A booster then follows this first vaccination 12 months later, and then again once a year throughout your cat’s adult life.

What are the possible side effects?

Vaccinations are very safe and side effects are rare, but it’s always best to keep an eye on your kitten after a visit to the vet. Some of the common vaccination side effects I’ve seen or heard reported include:

  • Transient lethargy
  • Mild fever
  • Localised swelling
  • Temporary loss of appetite.

If your kitten develops any of these symptoms they should usually pass after a day or two. If they last any longer, or you notice anything more severe, then I always recommend seeking advice from your vet.

How much do vaccinations cost?

In my experience, an initial set of kitten vaccinations is likely to cost around £65 with annual booster vaccines costing around £45.

When will my kitten be able to go outside?

Your kitten won’t be fully protected until two weeks after their second vaccination. Until then, my advice is to keep them indoors and away from any unvaccinated pets.

Vaccination myths vs reality

 Myth: Once I’ve had my kitten vaccinated they’re immune for life.

 Reality: Unfortunately, this isn’t true. It’s important to have your cat vaccinated every year to maintain his or her immunity against disease. While most brands of vaccines don’t need to include all the viruses every year, your kitten will need an annual booster against at least one of the viruses every year.

 Myth: Feline leukaemia is rare, so my cat won’t need that injection.

 Reality: Sadly, feline leukaemia is still a common cause of early death in young cats in the UK. It’s especially prevalent in urban areas and among unneutered animals. What I often see in my surgery is that kittens living in multi-cat households are also at risk.

 Myth: Vaccinations make my pet feel poorly.

 Reality: In my view, this is extremely unlikely. All feline vaccines are a modified form of the disease that they protect against and adverse reactions are very rare. Some kittens may be a little quiet and off food for 24-48 hours, but this is a fairly normal reaction to a vaccination – very similar to how we might feel after routine jabs. Anything more severe should always be reported to your vet.

 Myth: My kitten is never in contact with other pets, so it won’t need to be vaccinated.

 Reality: Many of the diseases your cat will be vaccinated against aren’t spread directly from pet to pet, meaning your furry friend could still catch an illness from something as simple as venturing outside! And your pet can also be at risk from viruses transmitted via your hands or clothes from cats you may come into contact with. Even if your cat goes out only rarely, or goes to a cattery (even very occasionally), they are at risk of contracting these diseases.

 Myth: Pets are given boosters too often.

 Reality: Your vet will never prescribe vaccinations unnecessarily. Instead, we assess your kitten’s needs on an individual basis and discuss what cover needs to be given. Your vet will also determine the right amount of time to leave between vaccines according to your pet’s age, their potential exposure to diseases and the type of vaccine to be given.

 Myth: I missed giving my pet a booster last year, but I can just give him/her one this year instead.

 Reality: This depends on the injection that’s been missed but, if more than 15 months passes between boosters, it’s likely that your vet will recommend restarting your pet’s vaccination programme from the beginning.

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