Kittens First Shots
By:Dr. Linda Simon
Author: Dr. Linda Simon
Dr. Linda Simon is a veterinary surgeon working with seven years of experience. She is a fellow of the British Veterinary Association and specializing in animal medicine. Also, she has been the Woman magazine resident vet for the past two years and writes a regular column for them, focusing on pets and their health.View all 18 articles Learn about our editorial process
Updated on: 08/07/2020
When should a Kitten get their first Shots?
One of the most important things we can do for our little furry friends is to make sure they have been fully vaccinated to protect them from many nasty diseases, some of which can even prove fatal.
The vast majority of kittens will receive their nourishment from the mother cat’s breastmilk until they are about six to eight weeks old. This milk is packed full of antibodies and keeps kittens protected from many infections during their first weeks. However, once they stop nursing, this immunity gradually begins to decline. It is actually not recommended to vaccinate them while they still have these antibodies as the vaccine may not be effective. Due to this, we aim to vaccinate most kittens at about nine weeks of age, when the ‘maternal antibodies’ (antibodies from their mother’s milk) have reduced significantly.
While a kitten can be vaccinated at any age over nine weeks, the longer we wait to do this, the more risk there is that they may contract something dangerous from the world around them.
Owners should understand that vaccines are not a one-off. Most kittens require ‘booster vaccines’ three to four weeks after the initial set and further top-up injections every year.
What are the necessary Shots for Kittens?
Kittens and cats both typically receive the same vaccines. For most, this means protection against Cat Flu (Feline Herpes Virus and Feline Calici Virus), Feline Panleukopaenia Virus, and Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). These are known as the ‘core’ vaccines as they are the ones that protect against diseases that can cause significant health issues in our kitty population. While this may seem like a lot of jabs, luckily, most vets can administer these in one single injection (Phew!).
There are also a number of ‘non-core’ vaccines, which the majority do not receive. These include Rabies, Chlamydia felis and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV).
Signs of cat flu include runny eyes, sneezing, and a failure to thrive. Some kittens can become very ill and may pass away if severely affected. Cat Flu is highly contagious, so if one kitten in the litter is affected, the other will likely start to show signs soon. Frustratingly, even those that recover from flu will be infected for life and can suffer from flare-ups throughout their lifetime, especially at times of stress.
Feline Panleukopenia Virus
Also known as ‘Feline Distemper’, Panleukopaenia is akin to the better-known ‘Parvovirus’ in puppies. It makes kittens very unwell and symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and a reduced appetite. The mortality rate is high, and, as with other viruses, there is no ‘cure’. This means that affected kittens and cats are managed with intensive supportive care, usually in a hospital setting, hoping they will pull through.
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
FeLV is spread from affected cat to cat through liquids such as saliva and nasal secretions. Even mutual grooming can lead to infection spread. While cats may not show many (if any) signs initially, the longer they have the disease, the more chance they will start to develop issues such as anemia, chronic infections, and cancers.
Depending on which country you and your cat are in, the Rabies jab may or may not be a core vaccine. In non-endemic countries such as the UK, kittens will only be vaccinated against Rabies if they are exported or will be traveling. Where Rabies is present, such as in the USA, Rabies vaccines are mandatory.
This is a bacterial infection that can cause conjunctivitis, which may be severe. Some cats may also show signs of being generally unwell and might develop a short-lived fever. Those living with other cats (for example, in shelters or multi-cat households) would benefit most from this vaccine.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FIV is comparable to HIV in humans and causes a cat to become progressively more unwell as they age. It is most often spread via mating and fighting, so it is most common in uncastrated cars who roam outside. In many countries, including the UK, no effective vaccine is available.
RELATED: How to Raise a kitten
How much will cost the first Shots for Kittens?
There is no ‘set price’ for kitten vaccines and the cost will vary from clinic to clinic. You can usually expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $100 for a kitten’s first set of jabs, depending on whereabouts you live. Their first jabs should also include a vet check-up, and some clinics will also provide parasite prevention and a microchip at the same time.
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