What is in a cat vaccination and why do I need to vaccinate my cat?

Cat vaccinations are essential for protecting your cat from various infectious diseases, ensuring their long-term health, and preventing the spread of these diseases in the feline population. Vaccines typically contain small amounts of killed or modified microorganisms (viruses or bacteria) that cause the specific disease, or in some cases, portions of these microorganisms, such as proteins. When a cat is vaccinated, its immune system recognizes these components as foreign and mounts an immune response, creating antibodies and memory cells. This helps the cat's immune system to recognize and fight off the real disease-causing organism if it encounters it in the future.

There are two main types of cat vaccinations:

1. Core vaccines: These are recommended for all cats, regardless of their lifestyle, as they protect against highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases. Core vaccines include:

- Feline panleukopenia (FPV): Also known as feline distemper or feline parvovirus, it is a highly contagious and life-threatening viral disease that affects a cat's gastrointestinal tract, immune system, and bone marrow.
- Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1): This virus causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), an upper respiratory infection that can lead to severe respiratory distress, especially in young kittens and immunocompromised cats.
- Feline calicivirus (FCV): This virus also causes upper respiratory infections, oral disease, and sometimes lameness. It is highly contagious and can lead to severe symptoms in some cats.

2. Non-core vaccines: These are recommended based on a cat's lifestyle, risk of exposure, and geographic location. Some non-core vaccines include:

- Feline leukemia virus (FeLV): FeLV is a retrovirus that can cause immunosuppression, anemia, and lymphoma in cats. This vaccine is recommended for cats that spend time outdoors or live with FeLV-positive cats.
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV): FIV is another retrovirus that weakens a cat's immune system, making them more susceptible to other infections. This vaccine is generally recommended for cats with a higher risk of exposure, such as outdoor or fighting cats.
- Chlamydophila felis: This bacterium causes conjunctivitis and upper respiratory infections in cats. The vaccine is typically given to cats in multi-cat households or those with a history of chlamydiosis.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica: This bacterium can cause respiratory infections in cats. The vaccine is usually recommended for cats in shelters, boarding facilities, or other high-risk environments.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine which vaccines are necessary for your cat based on their age, lifestyle, and health status. Regular vaccinations help keep your cat healthy and reduce the risk of serious illness, which can save you money on veterinary expenses in the long run. Additionally, vaccinating your cat contributes to overall feline population health by limiting the spread of infectious diseases.