Answer that and we’re on our way to figuring out which shots your cat needs.
Core and Non-Core
There are two recognized categories of vaccines for cats: core and non-core. A core vaccine, just as it sounds, should be given to all cats, while non-core vaccines are more for your outdoor kitty who comes into contact with more dangers due to his or her lifestyle.
FVRCP is a core vaccine that every cat should receive. It stands for Feline Viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Boy, is that a mouthful or what? Though it sounds similar to the shot for feline leukemia, Panleukkopenia (sometimes called feline distemper) is actually similar to canine parvovirus and can be a nasty and deadly disease. The other parts of this shot, which is usually given in one dose, are rhinotracheitis (a form of a herpes virus) and calcivirus (which can be caught from another cat or simply by you petting an infected cat, then petting your own cat. These last two are upper respiratory diseases and if caught, there is no specific treatment; so that’s another reason why this three-in-one shot is considered a core shot.
While some owners of indoor cats decide to avoid this shot, most areas require rabies shots by law. Rabies can be transferred to humans or animals and is considered one of the most deadly and infectious diseases for cats and humans alike. You can get one or three-year shots for your cat and you should ask your vet which he or she recommends.
FeLV/Feline Leukemia (Non-core)
Though this is considered a non-core vaccine and is recommended for outdoor kitties, any cat that can come into contact with another cat should be vaccinated. This is a nasty virus and if contracted, there is no cure; that’s reason enough for me. In the name of full disclosure, I once I had a little buddy named Monty and he came down with feline leukemia. It was a sad and terrible time so I feel I should recommend everyone protect their own buddy from this awful disease.
When and How Often
Just as in humans, there is some argument over what and how often vaccines should be given. Dr. Eric Barchas at Catster.com recommends kittens follow a regimen of getting the FVRCP at 6-8 weeks, then at 10-12 weeks, and then 14-16 weeks. Then get your cat a booster at one year old and then no more often than every 3 years. As your kitty ages, the shots can be given less frequently according to some veterinarians. The key is finding a vet you trust and follow their recommendations.
Other Preventative Measures
There are other preventative measures for cats depending on their situation and location. Not all of them require shots, as some may be pills, collars, or baths. Heartworms and fleas are pests that occur only in certain areas and conditions that may or may not pertain to you and your cat. Once again, find a veternarian you trust and follow their recommendations.
Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for ColoradoLocalLegends.com and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.