Vaccinating kittens


Why we vaccinate

Inquisitive, playful and adventurous – the traits that make your new kitten so appealing are the very traits that could lead your kitten to be exposed to infectious disease.

Some of these diseases have a very poor response to treatment and some are potentially fatal.

Many serious illnesses can be prevented by vaccination which makes the primary vaccination course absolutely essential for every kitten.

When to vaccinate

As long as the mother has been vaccinated, kittens receive natural protection against disease through Maternally Derived Antibodies (MDA) in the womb and more significantly shortly after birth from their mother’s first milk (colostrum).

This maternal immunity declines quickly and by the time kittens are a few weeks old they start to become progressively susceptible to disease and infection.

To ensure there is no gap between the maternal and the vaccine immunity, the initial part of a kitten’s primary vaccination course should start no later than 9 weeks of age.

The concluding part of the primary vaccination course is usually given 3 or 4 weeks afterwards.

How vaccines work

Vaccines work by introducing a tiny dose of the bacterium or virus to the immune system. The immune system then generates a protective response against that disease and remembers and activates that response whenever the disease is encountered in future.

That’s why vets ensure kittens are healthy when they are first vaccinated to ensure their immune systems can respond as expected.

The second part of the primary vaccination course is necessary because for some kittens high levels of MDA may interfere with the vaccine’s ability to stimulate a proper immune response from the kitten.

Time to take effect

Your kitten should not be considered ‘immune’ and allowed out until at least two weeks after the full primary vaccination course is complete.

Until this time, and while the vaccine takes full effect, your kitten should avoid contact with other cats and places where other cats may have been.

Duration of Protection

It is very important to maintain your kitten’s protection.

All kittens should receive a primary vaccination course. In order to ensure a good level of continuing protection, the first booster vaccination should be given a year after the primary course.

Thereafter your vet will advise the best vaccination protocol to maintain the optimum protection for your cat.

Diseases vaccines protect against

Current veterinary best practice recommends vaccination against Feline Panleucopenia (feline infectious enteritis also known as feline parvovirus) and the two cat flu viruses Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpes Virus.

These core vaccines are considered essential for all cats (including house cats).

Non-core vaccines include Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV), Chlamydophila Felis and Bordetella Bronchiseptica. These may be given strategically or dependent on your cat’s circumstances.

Decisions regarding the requirement for non-core vaccines may be based on the cat’s age, lifestyle and contact with other cats – for example vaccination against Bordetella Bronchiseptica given before boarding at a cattery.

Your vet will advise you about non-core vaccinations for your cat.

Responsible ownership

Keeping pets fully vaccinated not only safeguards them but also prevents the spread of those infectious diseases to other cats.

Furthermore if breeding kittens, a cat can only pass on MDA to the litter if she has been properly vaccinated with regular boosters and has immunity herself.

More information about vaccination

If you are unsure or concerned about any aspect of vaccination, always ask your veterinary practice. Your pet is their patient and they will recommend the appropriate preventive care programme.