Vaccinations Keep Kitties Cute

Look at your cat.  Do you have a needling worry that you've neglected something?  Has your puss-cat been vaccinated in the last twelve months?  Oops!!

It's an important consideration because the diseases that the vaccines prevent are dangerous and debilitating and the vaccinations for cat flu especially don't last more than 12 months. Feeling guilty are we?  Don't worry - your vet won't bite!

We can protect cats against the diseases known as Cat Flu, Feline Enteritis and Feline Leukaemia and veterinarians recommend revaccination every 12 months in adult cats.

So what are these diseases and what effects to they have?

Feline Enteritis

Feline enteritis, or Feline Panleucopaenia as it is more correctly known, is caused by the cat version of the parvo virus.  This virus is a tough little varmint.  It can last for a long time outside a cat's body and is easily spread by food bowls, clothing, shoes and bedding that are contaminated with infected droppings.

Initially it causes a lethargic, dull attitude and the loss of any appetite.  This is followed by uncontrollable vomiting and by diarrhoea.  The diarrhoea often contains blood although this is not the only disease in which blood-stained diarrhoea is seen.  Abdominal pain occurs and this can be severe.  It is common for pregnant cats to abort when infected by this virus or for kittens to be born with abnormalities such as brain damage.  Up to 75% of affected cats will die when they get this infection.

Cat Flu

Cat flu is also known as Feline Respiratory Disease or Cat Snuffles.  Several organisms can cause this disease but mostly either the feline rhinotracheitis virus or the feline calicivirus are guilty. 

The disease can affect all ages of cats from kittens onwards.  The coughing or sneezing of a 'carrier cat', that may be unaffected itself, often spreads the disease.

Sneezing and coughing is commonly seen with cat flu.  A discharge from the nose and eyes and ulcers on the tongue also occur.  The cat loses its appetite and is lethargic.  Symptoms of the disease may plague the cat for up to three weeks. 

Even after it has recovered, an infected cat can still carry the virus and infect others.  While cat flu can certainly kill kittens and elderly cats, it does not often kill adult cats.

Even after it has recovered, an infected cat can still carry the virus and infect others.


Feline Leukaemia

Feline Leukaemia is an interesting disease when compared with leukaemia in humans.  In cats, a virus causes it, but this has not been confirmed in humans.

If cats are infected with the feline leukaemia virus, about a third of them remain infected and can therefore pass the disease on to others.  Infection is transmitted by saliva, tears, nasal secretions and by urine.  The virus can also be transmitted to other cats when they groom each other, and when food bowls, litter trays, toys and so on are shared.

The first sign is usually a reduction in appetite.  Depression and weight loss occur as does vomiting and diarrhoea.  Reproductive problems occur and it also causes increased susceptibility to other infections.  Solid tumours can develop in various parts of the body. Death is slow and usually occurs  within three years.

The Remedies

The best way to prevent these diseases is by vaccination.

You should ask your own veterinarian about a vaccination schedule, but a good guideline is that the first vaccine should be given at six to eight weeks of age.  The second vaccination is given at 12 to 14 weeks, and the third at 16 to 18 weeks.

Kittens can be difficult to vaccinate effectively because they get immunity from their mothers which may stop the vaccine from working.  For this reason, or if your veterinarian considers there is an increased risk of transmission of the disease, he or she may advise revaccination every two to three weeks.

If your cat rarely meets other cats, for instance, if it is a house cat only and not allowed in the garden, boosters every six months are advisable.  This is because your cat is not getting its immunity boosted by 'natural exposure' to the virus from other cats but the virus can still be brought into the house on your shoes or clothes.