In our last column we discussed canine vaccines & lifestyles. This week we’ll give the cats their turn and with a brief run-down of feline vaccines and lifestyles:
Rabies - an incurable and nearly always fatal viral disease of mammals, Rabies is transmitted through saliva and targets the central nervous system. Because it is spread from animals to people, the public health implications have led to a legal requirement for vaccination of all cats and dogs in nearly every state.
FVRCP - Feline herpes/calicivirus/panleukopenia - This combination vaccine is considered “core” by the American Animal Hospital Association and is highly recommend for all cats:
- FVR - Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis: an upper respiratory disease caused by feline herpesvirus type 1. This, very common cause of respiratory disease in kittens and young cats, can result in chronic, even life-long, infections that may intermittently recur. It can also cause painful corneal (eye) erosions. It easily spreads by respiratory droplets.
- C - Calicivirus: another highly contagious viral infection that can cause ulcers on the eyes and in the mouth, upper respiratory symptoms, and even occasionally severe joint pain. This virus is particularly resistant to disinfectants so can be persistent in the environment.
- P - Panleukopenia is a highly contagious and severe infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Similar to the parvovirus in dogs it is easily transmitted through feces and contact with infected animals or contaminated items. If a cat is infected while pregnant it can cause neurologic abnormalities in her kittens.
Feline Chlamydiosis: this bacterial disease causes conjunctivitis and upper respiratory symptoms. It is very contagious in young kittens, especially those in multi-cat environments (shelters, catteries, etc…) and can rarely be transmitted to humans by direct contact.
Feline Leukemia Virus: (FeLV) is a highly contagious virus transmitted via bodily fluids, and can cause wasting syndromes and cancer which ultimately lead to death. Cats that spend times outdoors are at highest risk because of the potential for contact with infected cats. Kittens are most susceptible.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: (FIV) is similar to HIV in humans, this virus leads to a deficient immune system and predisposes to secondary infections. It is spread most commonly through bite wounds, so cats that spend time outdoors are at highest risk. Healthy cats living with an FIV-infected cat are at little risk so long as there is not inter-cat aggression/fighting. There is a vaccine against FIV, but concerns with its efficacy and ability to cause false positive test results, it is very infrequently recommended.
Most veterinarians aim to customize vaccine protocols based on each cat’s geographical location, age and sex, and individual lifestyle. Which class does your kitty fall into?
- “outdoor enthusiast” - spends a lot of time outdoors where he/she has frequent contact with other cats; lives in a multiple-cat household with frequent new additions/fosters; or contact with feral cat community
- “outdoor socialite” - spends some time outdoors; three or less cats in the house; occasional contact with unknown cats
- “indoor socialite” - multi-cat household; mostly indoors/confined outdoors, but has frequent contact with other cats (i.e. boarding/showing/mealtimes/litter boxes)
- “indoor elitist” - 1-2 cat household; occasionally escapes outdoors and may have contact with unknown cats
- “indoor window watcher” - strictly indoor; no contact with other cats (or only one other cat); no desire to escape outdoors
By taking all these factors into consideration, your veterinarian can work with you to develop the best individualized vaccine protocol for your cat.