Kittens have antibodies from their mother’s milk in their system for the first 10-12 weeks of age, giving them vital protection from bugs. After these disappear, your kitten will have to make its own antibodies in response to disease. Sometimes this defense is not enough and the disease is fatal or causes lifelong infection, such as with Feline Parvovirus (also called infectious enteritis or panleucopaenia virus) and Cat Flu (Herpes and Calicivirus). We vaccinate cats against these potentially fatal and widespread diseases with “core” vaccines which every cat should have at least every 3 years regardless of their lifestyle.
Feline Leukaemia virus (FeLV) is a non-core vaccine but advised for all outdoor cats. Also potentially fatal, it damages the immune system and is easily spread by mutual grooming or cat bites.
In recent years there has been increasing concern over the disadvantages of vaccination. Adverse reactions though rare, can occur and must be reported through the government’s regulatory authority, while injection site sarcomas or tissue cancers have been increasingly diagnosed and reported, thought to be caused by the carrier molecules (adjuvant) in the vaccines. At Pilgrims, we use a non-adjuvanted vaccine brand (Purevax), as advised by the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association), which drastically reduces the chance of injection reactions. It also has the longest duration of immunity for the core diseases out of all vaccine brands, which means that after your kitten has had its primary course and 1 year booster, if in an indoor only low risk environment, we will only need to repeat booster vaccines every 3 years. If going into a cattery or meeting other cats outdoors, an annual booster is still recommended given the risk/benefit involved.
The exact recommended vaccine schedule will vary according to the individual, however most kittens will fit with the following:
1st Vaccine at 8 weeks
2nd Vaccine at 12 weeks
(in high risk situations such as multicat households or breeding colonies, a 3rd vaccine at 16 weeks is advised)
1st Annual Booster at 1 year
Subsequent boosters are usually annually, but may vary according to lifestyle.