The Core Vaccinations for Your Cat


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash.

All advice given is general in nature. If you have any immediate or specific concerns, please talk to your vet.

Vaccinating your cat is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard them from contagious and potentially life-threatening diseases. In Australia, all cat parents are advised to immunise their cats with three core vaccines that protect against rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus), calicivirus, and panleukopenia (parvovirus). These are considered essential due to the risk these can pose to cats, so it’s important to get your cat vaccinated as early as possible. Additional non-core vaccines are also available to protect against other diseases based on your cat’s risk level.

Common preventable diseases in cats


Feline rhinotracheitis is an infectious disease caused by feline herpesvirus type-1, which affects domestic and wild cats. It can be passed on through direct contact with an infected cat or from items contaminated with virus particles from discharge or saliva (from eyes or nose). Once a cat has been infected, they remain a latent carrier of the virus for the rest of their life. While they can usually live a normal life with medical management, stress and illness can reactivate the symptoms, so having regular vaccine boosters will help prevent infection.

Symptoms of Rhinotracheitis:

- Sneezing
- Nasal congestion
- Conjunctivitis (eye inflammation)
- Discharge from the eyes and nose


Feline calicivirus is a virus that causes upper respiratory infections in cats. While illness will usually be similar to a cold, in some cases it can cause more serious infection in the lungs, joints, and other organs. Calicivirus is highly contagious and can be passed on through direct contact with an infected cat or a contaminated item. Cats with a mild case can be treated with medication to relieve symptoms, but more serious cases will require hospitalisation. Vaccination can reduce your cat’s chance of infection and reduce the severity of illness if they contract it.

Symptoms of Calicivirus:


- Sneezing
- Nasal congestion
- Ulceration of the nose (sores)
- Conjunctivitis (eye inflammation)
- Discharge from the eyes and nose
- Ulcers on tongue, mouth, lips and nose


- Pneumonia
- Joint inflammation causing limping
- Swelling in the face and legs

Month2 - Core Vaccs Infographic_FA_Cat Vax

Feline enteritis

Feline enteritis (also known as feline distemper) is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease caused by feline parvovirus (also known as the feline panleukopenia virus). It kills and infects cells that are rapidly growing and dividing in the body, such as those in the skin, bone marrow, and intestines.

If a pregnant cat is infected, her kittens can become infected before they are born. Cats can also catch it from virus particles shed into the environment by infected cats, through faeces, urine, saliva, and vomit. The likelihood of survival for kittens under 8 weeks is poor, as their immune system is still developing, but adult cats that receive early treatment have a much higher chance of recovery. Vaccination against the feline panleukopenia virus is given as a core vaccine to protect your cat from serious illness.

Symptoms of Feline Enteritis:

- Lethargy
- Depression
- Vomiting
- Diarrhoea
- Painful abdomen
- Dehydration
- Weight loss
- Low appetite
- Collapse Bruising of the skin or gums

Other vaccines to consider

Non-core vaccinations may be recommended for your cat if they fall into a specific risk category, so it’s good to ask your vet for their advice. Risk of certain diseases is decided based on factors such as the prevalence of disease in your location, whether you plan on travelling overseas with your cat, and how much contact they have with other animals. Common non-core vaccinations include:

Feline leukaemia virus

Feline leukaemia virus is a virus that attacks the immune system, which can cause vulnerability to infections such as anaemia and cancer. The virus is blood-borne so it is usually passed on when cats fight with one another. A non-core vaccine is available to protect against this, which may be recommended if your cat regularly comes into contact with other cats. Indoor cats face minimal risk.

Feline chlamydia

Feline chlamydia is an infection caused by a bacterial organism, which affects the conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids) and respiratory tract of cats. The most common symptom is conjunctivitis, as well as sneezing and nasal discharge. As the infection is transmitted through cat-to-cat contact, you may want to consider vaccination if you own more than one cat and there has been an infection associated with the disease.

When should you vaccinate your cat?

As a kitten’s immune system is still developing in the first few months of their life, it’s recommended that you begin their vaccinations when they are young to protect them from common diseases. The recommended [kitten vaccination schedule] begins at six to eight weeks old, with two further sets in four week intervals. Your cat will also need regular booster vaccinations throughout their life to maintain their immunity. Vaccinations can play a key role in keeping your cat healthy throughout their life, so it’s important to keep up with their booster schedule and to ask your vet about non-core vaccinations that may be suitable. For more information about caring for your cat, check out our petcare blog.


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