Written by: Judy Karnia, DVM
One of the best ways that you can keep your cat healthy is to prevent disease through vaccinations. Everyone seems to know that kittens need their shots. However, providing good immunity against disease depends on giving the right vaccines at the right times and continuing it throughout their lives.
A vaccine tells the body to prepare itself to fight a specific disease. When the cat’s immunity is good enough, her immune system will respond immediately when exposed to infection and fight it off. If that immunity decreases over time, the cat’s immune system will not be prepared to fight the disease.
When Should a Kitten Start Getting Vaccinated?
This is why bringing your cat to your veterinarian regularly for his vaccines is very important. Kittens need a series of vaccines to build up a good immunity. As a young kitten, your cat will have antibodies from his or her mother. These antibodies can still be present up to 16 weeks of age and these can prevent the vaccines from working as well. However, since we don’t know exactly when the mother’s antibodies will fade away, we need to start the vaccines earlier and give boosters every three to four weeks until at least four months of age.
Vaccine boosters are then needed a year later and every one to three years after that, depending on the type of vaccine and your cat’s lifestyle. Without these boosters, your cat’s immunity will likely decrease and your cat will not be protected if she is exposed to disease.
Any cat that goes outdoors will very likely be exposed to the diseases the vaccines prevent, however, this does not mean that indoor cats need not worry about exposure. Many situations can arise even for indoor cats that can lead to exposure to disease. Adopting or fostering a new cat, visiting cats, traveling, and going to a boarding facility are all possible means of exposure. You might not think you will ever board your cat or travel with him, but unexpected situations do arise and it is better to be prepared and have your cat protected. It can take several days for your cat’s immunity to be strong enough after a vaccine booster so waiting until an emergency arises is not the best way to go.
There are also times when your cat’s immune system may not be strong due to other illnesses or stress. By having the immunity already strong against the most likely diseases, your cat will be able to avoid becoming even more ill.
Talk to your veterinarian about the best vaccines for your cat and how often he should receive them. Be sure to keep your cat healthy by protecting her as well as we can.