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Core Cat Vaccines

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Core Cat Vaccines - Definition

Core vaccines for cats are those that most veterinarians and feline authorities recommend all cats be given. Preferably, core vaccines will be given in a short series to kittens after they reach 6 to 8 weeks of age, followed by booster shots at varying intervals. The precise protocol for feline vaccinations may vary based on geographical location, the cat’s age and health status and the preferences of the veterinarian and owner. This article discusses the core cat vaccines that currently are widely accepted by the veterinary community as being important for companion cats.

Feline Panleukopenia Virus (FPV; Parvovirus; Distemper)

Panleukopenia is a potentially fatal viral disease that causes vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever and often sudden death. Young cats are especially susceptible to panleukopenia. Kittens born to infected mothers can suffer permanent brain damage, if they survive the infection. Vaccination is highly effective against this disease. Usually, a kitten vaccination series is given, followed by a booster at 1 year and every 3 years thereafter.

Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex (FVRDC) (Feline Herpes Virus and Calicivirus; Rhinotracheitis)

Feline herpes virus and calicivirus infect the airways of cats, causing runny eyes and nose, sneezing, oral ulceration, reduced food intake and general discomfort. The infectious viral organisms are spread by direct cat-to-cat contact, aerosols from sneezing and contact with infected surfaces. The FVRDC vaccine may not prevent infection altogether. However, it usually reduces the severity of the disease. High risk kittens may be vaccinated as early as 6 weeks of age; most cats are vaccinated at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, followed by a booster after 1 year and then every 3 years thereafter. Injectable and intranasal forms of this vaccine are available. Mild clinical signs may be noted post-vaccination, especially with the intranasal form of the vaccine.


All mammals, including humans, are at risk of contracting rabies, which is almost invariably fatal. Rabies is referred to as “the great pretender,” because its signs are so variable in animals. Rabid mammals may display a "dumb" form of rabies, characterized by listlessness, weakness and paralysis. Alternatively, they may develop a "furious" form of the disease, characterized by abnormal behavior and aggression. Less commonly, rabid animals may just drool and have their tongues hanging out. New rabies vaccines specifically formulated for felines are much safer than older formulations. They are available is several forms, all of which are injectable. Current recommendations are to give kittens a single rabies vaccine between 10 and 16 weeks of age, followed by boosters either annually or one year later and then every 3 years thereafter, depending on the form of vaccine used. In many areas, vaccination of dogs and cats against rabies is mandatory under state or local law. Even cats that don’t normally go outside should be vaccinated against rabies. Rabid bats can fly into houses, and rabid wildlife - especially skunks and raccoons – can enter a fenced yard and infect companion animals.

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