Not every cat needs all available vaccinations. At the Cat Clinic of Cobb, we try to tailor vaccinations to the cat's lifestyle, in accordance with the guidelines of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.
Rabies vaccinations for cats are required by state law, because rabies presents a public health risk. Both one year and three year vaccines are recognized in Georgia. We are presently recommending the use of Merial's one year modified live rabies vaccine developed specifically for cats, because there is evidence that live vaccines are less likely than killed vaccines to cause reactions at vaccination sites.
FVRCP (Distemper and Upper Respiratory Virus Vaccines)
These are the airborne viruses that can blow in the window or track in on shoes, so all cats are likely to be exposed. Therefore, all cats should be vaccinated for these viruses. The good news is that it appears that these vaccines are lasting longer than a year, so that annual vaccination of adult cats may not be necessary. Currently we are vaccinating for FVRCP every three years.
The feline leukemia virus is not airborne; its transmission depends on the exchange of body fluids through bites, breeding or mutual grooming. Therefore, a cat that is always inside with no contact with other cats is at minimal risk for acquiring the feline leukemia virus. We recommend feline leukemia vaccinations for outside cats, kittens whose lifestyles are not yet established, inside cats that constantly try to slip out, and cats that live with feline leukemia positive cats. We are recommending the use of Merial's feline recombinant leukemia vaccine.
FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)
FIV, often referred to as Feline Aids, is a virus which is transmitted by exchange of body fluids, through bites, breeding or mutual grooming. Although there is no evidence that this virus can be transmitted to people, it does resemble the human HIV in that cats can be healthy carriers for long periods of time. When the disease does manifest itself, it destroys the immune system and makes the cat susceptible to any infection. Until recently, our only defense against this virus was a blood test to identify the infected carriers so that we could keep them from coming in contact with other cats. In the summer of 2002, a vaccine was introduced offering protection against FIV. The problem with this vaccine is that any cat that is vaccinated will then test positive to the only available test for identifying carrier cats. Since animal shelters and veterinarians routinely use this test to eliminate FIV positive cats from the population, it creates a situation where vaccinated cats might by euthanized as FIV carriers, while true carriers might be dismissed as simply being vaccinates. For this reason, we at the Cat Clinic of Cobb believe that this vaccine should be used only for high risk cats that spend a great deal of time outside and have a history of fighting and roaming. We further recommend that any cat that is to be vaccinated for FIV be tested negative for the FIV virus before vaccination, and microchipped so that this cat can always be identified as a vaccinate should he turn up in an animal shelter and test positive at some later date.
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)
FIP is caused by a coronavirus, which is highly contagious, but which actually causes this fatal disease in only a small percentage of cats. Cats that go outside, or those that are exposed to large numbers of cats, such as in catteries or show halls, are most likely to encounter the coronavirus frequently. The FIP vaccine is not generally recommended.