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Dear Doctor - Cat Vaccinations

What specific vaccinations does my cat need?

[From Tufts July 2011 Issue]

Velvet, my 16-year-old healthy, active British shorthair, is strictly an indoor cat. The last time that her vaccinations were up to date was four years ago, when I adopted her from a shelter. The only time she might come into contact with other cats would be when I take her to the veterinarian’s clinic this month for her wellness checkup, or in the event that she might slip out the door (seldom) and encounter another cat (never, so far).

What are the recommended vaccinations for indoor cats like Velvet?
Meridee St. Claire

Dear Meridee: Vaccines have been an integral part of preventive health care programs for several decades. No other medical development has been as successful as vaccination in controlling deadly diseases in companion animals. They’ve been an important component of preventive health care programs for years.

Vaccinations can be divided into two broad categories: core core vaccines, those recommended for all cats, and non-core vaccines, those that may or may not be necessary, depending on the individual cat’s lifestyle and circumstances. Currently, vaccines against panleukopenia, herpesvirus, calicivirus and rabies fall into the core vaccine category. Panleukopenia, herpes and calici are mixed together in one vaccine and is commonly abbreviated as the “FVRCP” vaccine.

Vaccines against feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), ringworm (a skin fungus), Chlamydophila (a respiratory pathogen, formerly called Chlamydia) and Bordetella (another respiratory pathogen) are considered to be non-core. Some of the non-core vaccines have questionable efficacy and are not generally recommended.

For your totally indoor cat, I recommend the FVRCP and the rabies vaccine. You should keep in mind that some of these vaccines are not necessarily required annually. The FVRCP vaccine has been shown to confer immunity for at least three years. Rabies vaccines are available as 1-year vaccines and 3-year vaccines.

Keep in mind that during the vaccination visit, your cat is also receiving a good physical examination, and this is necessary to make sure your cat stays healthy. Regular veterinary examinations allow illnesses to be detected early, when treatment is likely to be less expensive and more effective.
Arnold Plotnick, DVM, DACVIM
Medical Editor

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