All cats need to be vaccinated, but the vaccines they require and the frequency of vaccination largely depends on their lifestyle. Indoor cats require different maintenance vaccines than their outdoor cousins and owners need to be aware of the intricacies and necessities of these common vaccines.
In general, veterinarians require cats to visit clinics every year for their “annual boosters”. These “boosters” simply refer to annual vaccinations that booster the immune system in order to effectively respond to the presence of a disease or virus. Most feline annual boosters consist of FVRCP-C (a 4-in-one vaccine), FeLV (feline leukemia), and Rabies.
Not all of these vaccines are necessary every year, however, depending on your cat’s needs. All cats require a few rounds of vaccinations when they are young (or when their vaccine history is uncertain) and another round one year later. But the frequency of vaccinations for the remainder of their lives largely depends on if they are indoor, outdoor, or live with other cats that venture outdoors.
The most common vaccination given to cats is FVRCP (or FVRCP-C), otherwise known as the 3-in-one or 4-in-one vaccine. This vaccine incorporates a few different vaccines into one shot. These vaccines include Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR), Calicivirus (C), Panleukemia (P), and sometimes Feline Chlamydia (-C).
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) and Calicivirus (C) both address specific disease associated with common respiratory infections in cats. Since both these diseases are airborne, all cats, both indoor and out, need to be vaccinated against them.
Panleukemia, otherwise known as feline distemper, is neither leukemia nor distemper but actually the feline equivalent of parvovirus. This disease, transmitted by feces, bedding, bowls, and other common items, causes cats to shed the lining of their intestines through bloody diarrhea. The mortality rate is 60-90% and there is no cure.
Chlamydia is another upper respiratory infection that can last for many months if untreated.
Feline Leukemia [http://www.myonesource.com/articles/129/1/FeLV-a-Feline-Leukemia-Vaccine-a-What-and-Why/Page1.html] is not leukemia, but instead consists of a virus that attacks the immune system. Like FIV [http://www.myonesource.com/articles/126/1/FIV-Vaccines—What-and-Why/Page1.html], cats do not die from feline leukemia, but instead fall victim to other diseases that, if they had a healthy immune system, would not be a hazard to their health.
Not all cats need the FeLV vaccine. Indoor cats that never venture outside or live with other strictly-indoor cats do not need this vaccine. Although dogs can sometimes bring in the disease, this is not common. Any cat that goes outside or lives with cats that go outside needs to be vaccinated for feline leukemia. This disease is transmitted through saliva and can be transmitted via water and food bowls, grooming, or any moist surface. It can stay active for up to 48 hours on a moist area.
Although cats and dogs have been receiving the general rabies vaccine for many years, recent studies show that some of the adjutants in vaccines can lead to severe forms of cancer. Rabies laws differ depending on the county and state, but many states now recognize a three-year expiration date on rabies vaccines. These vaccines, however have the adjuvants (preservatives) that can cause tissue inflammation in cats and abnormal cell growth that can lead to fibrous sarcomas – cancerous tumors that occur at the site of injection that require the limb to be amputated.
There are alternatives [http://www.myonesource.com/articles/114/1/Rabies-Vaccines-for-Dogs-and-Cats/Page1.html] to traditional rabies vaccines and you should discuss all alternatives and vaccines with your vet.