All kittens need to get their vaccinations to protect them against common feline diseases that can be potentially serious and even fatal.
If you’ve bought a purebred kitten, he should already have received its preliminary shots, and you should get documentation from the breeder about what vaccinations the cat has already been given and what else he needs. If you’ve adopted the kitten from a shelter, then he would also likely have received some shots. It will be your responsibility to ensure that your kitten completes the recommended course of vaccinations. Your kitten should be fully vaccinated before he is allowed outdoors and a rabies shot should also be considered.
The diseases that kittens are vaccinated against include:
• Feline enteritis. This is a highly contagious viral disease with a high death rate, particularly among cats younger than a year old. Symptoms include fever, serious stomach pain, depression, dehydration and vomiting and diarrhea.
• Feline respiratory disease. Also known as cat flu, this is a highly infectious disease that cats of all ages are vulnerable to contracting, particularly young kittens and Burmese and Siamese cats. Symptoms include runny eyes, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, loss of appetite and tongue ulcers. Cats with the disease can suffer from severe dehydration which is followed by death.
• Feline Chlamydia. Chlamydia is an infection that causes an eye disease and is mainly seen in kittens up to nine months old. The symptoms of the infection are discharges from the eyes (conjunctivitis) and nose, coughing, fever, respiratory problems, weight loss, depression and enlarged lymph nodes. Transmission happens when a cat who has the infection passes it on through close contact with uninfected cats.
• Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). This is a viral infection that is carried in the blood and causes feline AIDS. It is potentially fatal, which is why vaccination is important to prevent your cat from contracting it, particularly if he is at risk. The virus affects the immune system, which is why initial symptoms are fever, diarrhea, lesions and sores, which progress to more severe chronic infections as the cat’s immunity weakens. Vaccination for FIV is given over a course of fourteen weeks with a temporary first shot given at six weeks, a booster at ten weeks and the final shot at fourteen weeks. A week after the last shot, the kitten can socialize with other cats.
• Feline leukemia virus (FeLV). This is one of the leading causes of feline death from infectious agents. FeLV weakens the immune system, causing various cancers and other chronic conditions. The virus is present in body fluids like the saliva and urine and is transmitted through direct contact, including biting and sneezing. A series of shots is given, with the first at eight weeks and the second at twelve weeks, with boosters at regular intervals.
• Feline distemper. This is a highly contagious viral disease that can be transmitted through airborne means, contact with other infected cats or even by frequenting places where sick cats have been. A series of vaccinations is given to kittens as young as six weeks old to protect them from the disease, followed by annual booster shots.