It’s time to update our feline vaccine protocols!  Woo hoo!  Just as with DA2PP in dogs, we are also extending our FDV vaccines in adult cats to every 3 years.  Read more below for specifics.

When does my cat start this protocol?

After your cat has received an updated FDV vaccine for 2015, we will implement an every 3-year FDV protocol for him/her. 

Your cat has to be an adult, and had a proper kitten series for FDV and a yearly FDV booster at 1-1 ½ years of age for this protocol to be safe and effective. 

What does FDV do for my cat?

FDV is commonly known as the feline distemper vaccine.  The vaccine actually includes protection against feline panleukopenia, viral rhinotracheitis, and viral calicivirus.  Panleukopenia is often fatal resulting in sepsis and very similar to canine parvovirus.  Feline rhinotracheitis and calicivirus are upper respiratory virus’ that are not always fatal, but persistent and can create a lifetime of poor quality of life and medical needs.   All 3 viruses are infectious and very contagious between cats! By vaccinating your cat, you are ensuring that your cat is protected against these viruses.  Early protection and boostering this vaccine are key to decreasing your cat’s risk!

What are the recommendations for kittens?

For FDV, we recommend kittens be vaccinated at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks.  Kittens are at the highest susceptibility to the viral infections discussed above so we want to make sure we eliminate any chance of infection via multiple boosters.  

Why are so many kitten boosters needed?

Kittens, just like puppies, have weak immune systems.  Kittens also obtain protection from their mother through the consumption of “mother’s first milk” (colostrum). These antibodies, known as “maternal antibodies,” will help protect the kitten for the first few weeks of life. As the maternal antibodies start to dwindle, the kitten’s immune system begins to respond to infectious agents within its environment.   Unfortunately, there is no diagnostic way to measure the levels, the effectiveness, or the duration of the maternal antibodies for the kittens.  This means that the maternal antibodies may only last the kitten 8 weeks, or up to 16 weeks.  This is why we recommend multiple boosters.  Vaccination of kittens prior to 8 weeks of age may have no benefit due to adequate maternal antibodies from the mother.

Unlike in dogs, we often worry more about poor maternal antibody protection as a large majority of our kitten population comes from stray cats that are typically unvaccinated. Certainly there is a degree of natural immunity that stray cats develop, but no scientific tests are available to measure this degree of protective immunity in the mothers or the kittens. 

What if my kitten is older than 8-12 weeks?

Depending on your kitten’s age, we will develop an appropriate vaccine program to provide proper protection.  If your kitten is older than 16 weeks of age for his/her first FDV vaccine, we will vaccinate at 16+ weeks of age, and then 3-4 weeks later. 

What comes after the kitten series?

It is extremely important to booster your cat’s immunity 1 year after the last kitten vaccines. This occurs when your cat is 1-1 ½ years old.  After this FDV booster, your cat will be started on an every 3-year FDV vaccine protocol. 

What about other vaccines?

RABIES: Just like in dogs, Rabies is required by law for cats and follows the same protocol.  Rabies must be given to your pet between 12 weeks and 6 months of age, and then administered a Rabies booster at 1-1 ½ years of age (for the same reasons as listed above for the FDV).  After this booster, your pet will then be placed on a 3-year protocol.  However, if your pet does not receive the 1-year booster during the appropriate time interval or goes beyond the 3 year interval, by law, we must start over with a 1 year protocol for your pet’s Rabies vaccine.  Rabies is REQUIRED BY LAW.   Unless your pet is sick or has extenuating circumstances, every pet must be vaccinated for Rabies at our clinic.  Additionally, if you travel with your pet to the lower 48, your pet may be required to have Rabies administered yearly due to increased risk and exposure from raccoons, skunks, bats, etc. 

Feline Leukemia Virus Vaccine (FeLV):  Feline leukemia is a fatal virus if contracted and is spread to other cats through any bodily fluid, including saliva, feces, milk and urine.  FeLV transmission can also occur via sustained close contact through normal behaviors including mutual grooming, sharing of food/water bowls and litter boxes.  Fighting, mostly bite wounds, can contribute to the contraction of FeLV.  As with other virus’, FeLV can affect a cat at any life stage.  A FeLV vaccine does exist and has proven to be extremely effective.

The American Association of Feline Practitioner’s (AAFP) now recommends ALL kittens be tested for FeLV and if negative for FeLV, be vaccinated for this virus as a kitten.  The AAFP is a well-known, respected feline veterinary organization that has researched and produced the recommendations for vaccines in cats. 

Why does my normal kitten need to be tested for FeLV?

Unfortunately, FeLV can be transmitted in-utero through an infected pregnant queen.  This results in kittens born with FeLV; these kittens may be normal for many weeks and if survive, will have progressive infections as an adult.  FeLV can also be transmitted via the milk or via the saliva as the mother’s groom their kittens.   Vaccinating for FeLV is ineffective in cats positive for FeLV.  We also want to know if your kitten has FeLV to advise you properly on what is to come, risks to other cats, and that it is extremely important to keep the infected cat isolated. 

We WILL NOT vaccinate your kitten for FeLV without a NEGATIVE FeLV test documented in the past month and no signs of recent exposure. 

What if I plan on my kitten staying indoor only?

The AAFP still strongly recommends ALL KITTENS be tested negative and vaccinated.  We support this as well for a few reasons:

  1. You never know when your “indoor only” cat may slip outside and become exposed; or your cat pesters you until you let them outside.
  2. Your cat may escape while traveling and encounter an infected individual.
  3. Are you sure this is your only cat?  What if you want to get another cat – adult or kitten?  There are so many unknowns – what if your cat is infected? What if the new cat is infected?
  4. If we vaccinate all kittens against FeLV, we could virtually eliminate this virus as a risk to your future cats. 

Knowing your cat is protected provides a piece of mind and helps to ensure the safety of all cats, whether indoor or outdoor. 

What is the protocol for FeLV vaccines?

Whether your cat is a kitten or an adult, the initial FeLV vaccine is a series of 2 boosters.  If you have a kitten, this will occur at 12 weeks and then at 15-16 weeks.   The FeLV vaccine is then boostered at 1- 1 1/2 years of age.

If you have an adult cat that you want to protect, your adult cat must first test FeLV negative.  Then, it will be an initial FeLV vaccine, and a booster 3-4 weeks later.

Unlike the FDV vaccine, FeLV vaccines are administered more frequently than every 3 years.  This is because of a higher risk of interaction with the virus and the immunity provided by the vaccine has not been proven to last 3 years.  For high risk individuals (those cats that are outdoors often and interact with other cats), it is recommended to booster FeLV vaccine annually.  For low risk cats (indoor only), the AAFP recommends boostering the FeLV vaccine every 2 years. 

Does your cat still need an annual exam even though he/she may not be due for vaccines?

ABSOLUTELY!  Annual exams are the most important service we provide.  Cats are amazing hiders of disease.  Annual exams allow us to obtain baselines, discuss weight, hair coat, dental disease, and other issues that may arise.  We all understand how difficult it may be to bring your cat to us.   We just can’t express enough how important an annual exam for your cat is.  Stay tuned for tips on how to make this easier for your and your cat.

A recent study done by Zoetis Pharmaceuticals evaluated 563 dogs and cats for a standard wellness exam.  90 days later, all 563 dogs and cats were re-evaluated.  Findings showed that 28% of those cats had new health risks in just 3 months!  36% of dogs had new health risks uncovered (article and statistics courtesy of Zoetis and

Additionally, annual examinations are also necessary for animals with chronic conditions, especially if they are on medications.  In order for your veterinarian to legally dispense any prescription medications (ex. antibiotics, anti-seizure medication, anti-inflammatories, thyroid medication, etc) the V-C-P relationship must be maintained.  This is maintained via an annual exam of your pet.


For more information about vaccinating your cat or the AAFP, go to

Thanks for reading!  If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.  We appreciate your business and look forward to continue to provide quality care and services for you and your pet.  We hope to see you in 2015!