Vaccinations play a big role in your cat’s preventative healthcare, as they safeguard them from common diseases that can be caught from other animals and their environment.
By following the recommended vaccine schedule suggested by your vet, starting from when they’re a kitten, you can have peace of mind that your cat is protected, and prevent the spread of contagious illnesses.
Core vs. non-core vaccines
There are a number of vaccines available for your cat, broken down into two categories: core and non-core. Core vaccines are recommended for all cats in Australia. Non-core vaccines are optional vaccinations that may be advised depending on your cat’s location, lifestyle, and other risk factors - such as whether they go outside, their exposure to other animals and presence of disease in the local area.
Kittens are temporarily protected from diseases by antibodies found in their mother’s milk, but it’s important to follow the advised vaccination schedule to strengthen and maintain this defence. The schedule starts at 6-8 weeks until they are around three or four months old. They’ll also need regular boosters throughout their adult life to ensure long-term immunity.
Cat vaccination schedule
6-8 weeks old
Your kitten will have their first set of vaccinations at 6-8 weeks old. The three core vaccinations are combined into one injection called the F3 vaccine and cover:
- Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus)
- Panleukopenia (Parovirus)
10-12 weeks old
Your kitten will need their next vaccinations around four weeks after their first set. This may be administered as an F3 booster to cover the three core vaccines, or potentially as an F4 or F5 injection, which cover the core vaccines, as well as additional non-core vaccines. A separate FIV vaccine is also available to protect against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
- F3: Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Parovirus)
- F4: Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Parovirus) + Chlamydia OR Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV)
- F5: Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus), Calicivirus, Panleukopenia (Parovirus) + Chlamydia AND Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV)
- FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus).
The FIV vaccine is a course of three injections and can be administered in two week or monthly intervals, followed by annual boosters.
14-16 weeks old
At three to four months old, your kitten will need their final set of vaccinations. This will be a booster of the same vaccinations they received at 10-12 weeks (with exception of the FIV vaccine, which works on a slightly different schedule).
Cat vaccination booster schedule
The immunity kittens build up from their early vaccinations will weaken over time, so cats need regular booster vaccinations throughout their lives to maintain protection. These will cover the same diseases as their previous vaccinations and are usually administered every 12 months, but some vaccinations can be given at longer intervals. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best schedule for your cat.
If your circumstances change and you’d like your cat to receive non-core vaccinations later down the line, these can also be arranged at a later date.
Your vet will carry out a health check during your cat’s vaccination appointments to make sure they’re in good health. Vaccinations stimulate a pet’s immune system, so they should only be given to healthy animals.
Vaccine side effects are uncommon, but you should avoid petting your cat around the injection site, as it could be sore. It’s possible they could also feel a bit lethargic or off their food for a day or two following their vaccinations. If this is the case, make sure they have somewhere warm and comfortable to rest with food and water nearby. Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not showing other symptoms. If you notice excessive scratching, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhoea, contact your vet immediately.
What to do if you don’t know if they’re vaccinated
If you adopt a cat without knowledge of their vaccination history, it’s best to assume they haven’t been vaccinated and to start a new course of vaccines to make sure they’re protected. Another option is to book them in for a titre test with your vet, which can be used to detect antibodies in their blood and indicate whether they have been vaccinated or not.
While immunisations never offer 100% protection against diseases, they are an effective way to reduce your cat’s risk. Keep up with their boosters to help them live a happy and healthy life. For more information about caring for your cat, check out our petcare blog.
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