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Why you must vaccinate your cat

Last week we spoke about why it is important to vaccinate your dog, so this week it is the turn of a purry friend!

The proportion of cats being vaccinated is down 7%: in 2011 72% of cats were being vaccinated in the UK, with only 65% in 2017 and only 65% of cats receiving annual boosters.

So, why do you need to vaccinate your cat? There’s one simple way to explain. Here’s the lowdown on the unpleasant diseases your feline friend is vulnerable to when they are not vaccinated.

1) Cat Flu

Yes, humans get flu too, and you’d be correct to point out that we only vaccinate particularly vulnerable people. However, the types of flu which cats can catch are actually worse, and can fundamentally affect their quality of life for a long time.

Cat flu is primarily spread through direct content via saliva, or from runny eyes and noses, but can also be spread via bedding and feeding bowls in communal areas. A pregnant cat can also pass the flu onto her unborn kittens if she’s not vaccinated.

What are the signs?

Just what you’d expect: sneezing, runny eyes/nose, fever, not eating, drooling, and possibly ulcers on the mouth (if the type is Calicivirus).
In severe cases, your cat may develop pneumonia.

What can you do?

As usual, there is no cure – only a vaccination can prevent it. If your cat catches it as a kitten, sadly she can still die even with the best supportive treatment.

2) Feline Infectious Enteritis:

FIE attacks the lining of your cat’s gut and can easily be transmitted through contact of infected pee or poo. Unvaccinated mothers can also pass this one on to their kittens, meaning that sadly they are either stillborn, born blind, or suffering from what is known as cerebellar hypoplasia (a condition involving the back part of the brain which becomes smaller and causes tremors and poor coordination).

What are the signs?

Fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, reduced appetite, lethargy, and seizures in some cases.

What can you do?

That’s right, no cure, just symptomatic treatment, which is why vaccination is necessary.

3) Feline Leukaemia Virus

This virus is a very nasty one indeed which can cause the development of cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia. It’s spread through infected saliva, poo, pee and the mother cat’s milk. It’s sadly very likely that you will lose your cat within 3 to 4 years if they catch this one.

What are the signs?

This illness is more of a creeper, so the signs are associated more with your cat trying to fight off infections and other illnesses but having problems getting rid of them. It affects the immune system, so ultimately it is the secondary infections which can harm your cat.

What can you do?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent it. If your cat does have FLV, then your vet can help you to keep her healthy, and you can do your bit with regular flea and worming treatments, trips to the vet twice a year, and a good diet. You should also keep your cat indoors to ensure they don’t pass the virus on.

General Advice on Primary Vaccinations:

  1. Just do it! Kittens can be vaccinated from 9 to 10 weeks old.
  2. Make sure they get their secondary booster (2 to 4 weeks after the first appointment).
  3. Keep all kittens indoors for 2 weeks after the second primary booster to ensure they are fully covered before exploring the open world!
  4. Your pet will also get a full veterinary exam when they go for their vaccinations, which can pick up all sorts of other things (good and bad) that you will need to be aware of.


Andrew Bucher
Veterinarian and Co-founder of MedicAnimal