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The Vaccination Conundrum - Protocols for Cats Vaccines

How Do Cat Vaccines Work, and Which are Necessary?


Photo of Vet Preparing to Vaccinate Cat

Photo of Vet Preparing to Vaccinate Cat

Photo Credit: © iStockPhoto/Copyright: Jon Schulte
Recent years have brought much discussion among veterinarians, breeders, and cat owners on the value, safety, and necessity of some vaccines. The resultant rumors mixed with fact have caused concern among cat lovers: Does my cat really need to be vaccinated every year? Are vaccines more harmful than helpful? Unfortunately, there is no one answer that would be applicable to all cats, but with a better understanding of the facts, you can work with your own veterinarian to work out a vaccination scheme that will provide the safest protection for your cat.

How do Vaccines Protect my Cat?

Vaccines do not inject a miraculous shield against disease. They work by fooling the body into thinking it is threatened, thereby stimulating the body's own defense system into producing antibodies to fight off the invader. Vaccines are made from either killed viruses or weakened viruses (modified live - MLV), and can be given individually, although some serums are often given as a group (multivalent), e.g. the "3-Way, " or FRCP. (See page 2 for more information on multivalent vaccines.)

Vaccines are most commonly given by injection, although several new intranasal vaccines have been developed, which are recommended by the VAFSTF where available.

After the initial "kitten shots," boosters are given to boost the cat's defense system. Traditionally, veterinarians have asked owners to bring their cats in for annual boosters, along with their annual well-cat checkup, however times are changing and many veterinarians are moving to an every three year protocol, with some exceptions.

In 1996, due to increasing concerns about tumors found at the sites of certain vaccinations, a Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma Task Force (VAFSTF), consisting of representatives from American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS), researchers, clinicians, and government representatives, was formed to study this phenomenon. Their published results included certain vaccines as "Core Vaccines" (highly recommended for all cats). Another group was listed as "Non-Core and Not Generally Recommended" vaccines. Most of these latter vaccines are only recommended for cats "highly at risk." Please refer to the AAFP Protocol List for the most current information on these vaccines.

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