Most veterinarians recommend vaccinations as an integral part of keeping your cat healthy. But which vaccines, and what is the proper cat vaccination schedule? Ultimately that is up to you and your veterinarian, but the following are commonly considered "core vaccines" for cats — so named because the diseases the vaccines protect against are extremely severe and/or especially common, or the disease is a threat to humans.
This parvovirus may cause fever, dehydration, diarrhea, neurological symptoms, and can prove to be fatal for infected cats, especially young cats. Even worse, the causative virus is very resilient and can survive for years in contaminated environments. Fortunately there is a vaccination for the feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), which can be administered as early as six weeks of age.
One of two viruses which most commonly are responsible for upper respiratory infections in cats, feline calicivirus is highly communicable in unvaccinated cats, and is commonly seen in multicat facilities, shelters, poorly ventilated households, and breeding catteries. Typically the vaccination for feline calcivirus is combined with the vaccines for feline panleukopenia and feline rhinotracheitis. It can be administered as early as six weeks and should be repeated at 3-4 week intervals until your kitten is at least 16 weeks of age and then repeated one year later.
The other virus commonly associated with upper respiratory infections in cats, feline rhinotracheitis may affect cats of all ages but is most risky for unvaccinated kittens, pregnant cats, or those suffering from a lowered immunity due to a pre-existing disease. This vaccination is typically combined with the vaccines for feline panleukopenia and feline calicivirus and is administered as early as six weeks of age, with repeat boosters at 3-4 week intervals until your kitten is at least 16 weeks of age.
Rabies is an inflammatory infection that specifically affects the gray matter of the brain and central nervous system. Once the virus enters the cat's body, it replicates in the cells of the muscles and then spreads to the closest nerve fibers, including all peripheral, sensory, and motor nerves, traveling from there to the CNS via fluid within the nerves. Fortunately there is a vaccination against the rabies virus. Depending on the type of vaccine your veterinarian uses, it can be given at either 8 or 12 weeks of age. For the recombinant vaccines, boosters are recommended annually.
Now that you have a better understanding of core vaccines, you should also be aware of "non-core" vaccines. These vaccinations are no less important than core vaccines, though they are typically only recommended for cats whose lifestyles or living situations place them at risk for the diseases in question. Common non-core vaccinations for cats include those which build immunity to feline leukemia, feline AIDS, feline infectious peritonitis, Chlamydophila felis, and Bordetella bronchiseptica.